BBC News World in Analia Laurent
Excuse me, can you give me a wifi password?
If you never asked this question or were never asked, you are literally logged out. But just in case, let’s get started.
Wi-Fi, WiFi or simply WiFi appeared on the market in 1997.
It is a wireless connection system, used in a specific area, between electronic devices and to access the Internet.
The term originated from the Wi-Fi Alliance organization, but it has become so common that it is now part of the dictionary.
And no, that doesn’t make sense, according to Phil Belanzer, one of the company’s founding members. This is the result of a marketing strategy.
It should be noted that Wi-Fi is based on the IEEE 802.11 standard, a wireless quality family created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a global association of engineers dedicated to technical standardization and development.
And for almost 25 years, wifi, through its constant updates, has had a profound effect on the way society connects.
“The biggest impact of Wi-Fi is fair access to the Internet. Imagine if the world could only be developed by cellular or satellite, only the rich could afford it,” said Sujit Dey (USD), director of the Center for Wireless Communications at the University of San Diego, California. (United States).
WiFi is accessible because it is based on unlicensed spectrum.
“It means no one controls it, of course, it also means that the quality of service is sometimes bad. But since it’s unconnected spectrum, as long as you have a wired network, the WiFi part is free. It democratizes access. Without WiFi, millions. Millions and millions of people would not have access to the Internet, “said Professor Dee
But WiFi also has economic implications.
“It’s a few billion dollars a year. It’s an unprecedented impact. I think it’s hard to underestimate the impact of connectivity on people,” BBC Mundo member Dorothy Stanley told BBC Mundo. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE SA) Standards Association.
The Wi-Fi Alliance estimates that by 2022, about 18 billion Wi-Fi devices will be in use.
Although the global economic value of Wi-Fi in 2021 is estimated at $ 3.3 trillion In 2025, it is expected to reach 4.9 trillion, according to a survey by Telecom Advisors.
Wi-Fi has transformed its users into enterprising searchers for more efficient, reliable and secure connections, facing hybrid or remote work situations, complex home and business connectivity systems and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In a growing connected world, we ask ourselves: what is the future of connectivity, what comes after WiFi to access the Internet?
It is important to note that although Wi-Fi has rapidly entered the developed world over the past two decades, there are still many corners of the planet where this technology does not exist and where there is no Internet access.
For example, according to a 2021 survey by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), an estimated 244 million people in Latin America, or one-third of the population, do not have Internet access. American Development Bank (IDB) and Microsoft.
However, in the wake of the Kovid-19 epidemic, connectivity has become a major need and many technological developments have emerged for governments and agencies to bring connectivity to remote areas.
“Wi-Fi isn’t the perfect solution there, but it’s an important part of the overall solution,” said Dorothy Stanley, head of the IEEE 802.11 Standards Working Group.
He cited the example of remote areas of India and Canada where mixed connectivity with satellite, fiber optic and wireless has been implemented.
“If we talk about future connections, I think the short answer is better and more ubiquitous, to cover areas that are not covered today,” the expert analyzed while highlighting the efforts of Mexico City authorities, which in 2021 will have 21,500 free internet. Received the Guinness World Record for the most connected city in the world for points.
Wi-Fi for a while?
Since the introduction of WiFi, standards have been constantly evolving, usually improving speed, adding new features or technology, and a new identifier name.
802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6, is the latest evolution introduced in 2021. It delivers an ultra-fast speed of 9.6 Gigabits per second (Gbps) and supports the 2.4 GHz frequency band (GHz), 5 GHz and 6 GHz, as well as wide channels (80, 160 MHz), among other features.
But it is still not widely available in the market.
And in 2024, engineers are already working on the 802.11be or Wi-Fi 7 standard with advanced features that promise to be “a major milestone”, according to a June 2022 Task Force report.
Everything suggests that there is no limit to WiFi.
“We haven’t found it yet and the estimate is that the demand for WiFi sources will increase tenfold in the next 10 years, so we’re seeing a growing installation of WiFi,” Stanley said.
“I think we’ll see more WiFi. Our goal is to focus on increasing range, performance and backwards compatibility because we want people to use all the devices they’ve bought and the money they’ve invested in,” he added.
Advances in WiFi are not only for speed improvement, but also for connecting multiple devices and maintaining that speed.
“More and more people want to use more than one type of device. It’s not just phones, it’s also watches, glasses, etc. More devices will be connected. There will be no Wi-Fi so it will continue to get better,” Professor Dey told BBC Mundo.
Although wifi still has a lot of room for improvement and remains the most stable connection technology, there are connection options that could complement or replace it in the future.
“5G is coming to most countries in Europe, the United States and Latin America. The problem is that most 5G installations were based on 4G, so it will take a few years to see the actual 5G installation,” estimates Sujit Dey. .
By the end of 2026, about 43% of mobile subscriptions in Latin America are expected to be 5G, according to Ericsson research.
But the cost tends to be higher.
“Many people in different populations can’t afford a 5G plan, so WiFi remains a cheaper option. But, of course, you can’t bring WiFi out of the house, so people’s 5G plans should be within reach,” said a USD professor. .
It is also possible to transmit information through light.
Harald Haas, a professor of mobile communications at the University of Edinburgh, coined the term Li-Fi in 2011 to describe a technology that uses LED lights to transmit data.
The downside of traditional WiFi routers is that multiple devices in the same place can interfere with each other.
However, Li-Fi can use multiple lights in a room without interference, its creators claim.
Li-Fi can provide Internet access 100 times faster than traditional WiFi, providing speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
It requires a light source, such as a standard LED lamp, an internet connection, and a photodetector.
For Professor Dey, this type of technology is very effective for indoor space, but it requires an additional infrastructure cost and is therefore not a cheap solution.
“Imagine an office where you have to install the right reflector. It has some advantages in terms of speed and level of connection, but in general there is a disadvantage in the need for new infrastructure,” he explains.
And then there’s the satellite connection.
Companies like Starlink, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, offer high-speed and broadband satellite Internet access services in rural and remote areas, with a monthly fee of 110 USD (69,472 FCFA) and a one-time cost of 599 USD (378,230 FCFA). ) For the material.
“Sterlink is an innovative addition to our connectivity portfolio. I believe it has the potential to further enhance Satellite’s current deployment and make this technology possibly more affordable and comprehensive,” Stanley said.
However, satellite communications have higher delays, which means more than late WiFi or cellular.
“To address this issue, some companies have fewer orbital satellites and less delay issues. Now they want to integrate satellite and WiFi as well,” Dey said.
“If this integration is successful in the next few years, it will not only be a few people who will be able to do things remotely. Many more people will be able to do it because there will be a WiFi connection,” he said.
In addition to Google’s balloon project, Professor de highlights some of the companies that are testing drones to provide connections.
“I think the best connection would be by air, because the cost of infrastructure is much lower,” he warned.
“You can access areas where there is no optical fiber, especially in underdeveloped countries who want to be further developed,” he explains.
It is clear that there are multiple technologies that are currently being tested and will be used to connect in the future.
“There is no single technology that covers everything. The demand for connectivity is such that we need to integrate all parts, bring products together and bring them to market to meet people’s needs, wherever they are. Stay connected,” Stanley said.
“Our vision for the future is to connect everyone,” he said
For Professor Dey, the landscape of connectivity will change dramatically in the next 10 to 20 years. This is why “connection should be a birthright in this campaign in the modern age.”
“Because we can’t do anything constructive without connection,” he concluded.