Vic Hayes and Wolter Lemstra
Vic Hayes and Wolter Lemstra are based in the Department of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands.
Abstract Purpose – This paper aims to provide a description of the genesis and development of Wi-Fi, or how the industry exploited an opportunity provided by the regulators in allowing radio communications in the unlicensed bands originally allocated for industrial, medical and scientiﬁc applications. Design/methodology/approach – The longitudinal case describes the genesis and development of Wi-Fi, with a focus on the interplay between regulation, innovation, standardization, and running a successful business. Findings – The paper argues that the current day success of Wi-Fi is a combined result of: a change in the US communications policy in the 1980s; the industry leadership provided by NCR, its successors and collaborators, to create a global standard and to deliver compatible products under the Wi-Fi label; and the inﬂuence of the users that moved the application of Wireless-LANs from the enterprise to the home, from indoor to outdoor use, from a communications product to a service, and from operators to end-users as the provider of that service. Research limitations/implications – The exploration and analysis are based on contributions by experts from the ﬁeld, having been involved ‘‘ﬁrst hand’’ in the innovation journey of Wi-Fi. Practical implications – The case describes the ﬁrst globally successful large-scale application of radio communication devices operating under a licence-exempt radio frequency regime. The case is a contemporary example of innovation and product development leading to an open standard. In concluding the paper reﬂects on the implications of this licence-exempt case for the governance of the radio spectrum. Originality/value – While many articles and books have appeared discussing the technical aspects of Wi-Fi,... [continues]
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