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« News for 8/8/2002 | Main | »

August 8, 2002

Wi-Fi Timeline

This is the definitive copy of the Wi-Fi Timeline, an open-source collection of the events that define the creation and maturation of the Wi-Fi networking protocol and movement, and related wireless developments. Please submit changes or additions.

Yes, this is sparse. I'm hoping the community jumpstarts entries. Updated March 6, 2002. (Switched to reverse chronological order for better sense.)


Mar. 5: San Francisco International Airport gets unwired. SFO's cord is cut through T-Mobile USA, which plans to offer service throughout all terminal areas by the end of 2003.


802.11g's draft 6.1 approved.


Nov. 4: Vivato demonstrates phased-array anntenna. Vivato took the wraps off their secret project, and showed how their antenna and access point solution could light up entire buildings or parts of a city from a single location instead of requiring individual access points densely arrayed.

Oct. 31: WPA to replace WEP as interim step to 802.11i. The Wi-Fi Alliance announces WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) as an interim solution for link-layer security based on the work in progress at the IEEE 802.11i task group. WPA fixes most of WEP's fundamental problems, while also requiring 802.1x and EAP support to be baked in. Certification of WPA as part of Wi-Fi is to begin in Feb. 2003; mandatory inclusion is scheduled for fall 2003.

Oct. 14: Boingo Wireless official support for dual mode cards. First card: Proxim's 802.11a/802.11b ComboCard.

Oct. 4: Wi-Fi now includes 802.11a. The newly renamed Wi-Fi Alliance changes the Wi-Fi trademark to serve as an overall symbol of interoperability coupled with specific annotations below the mark on products to say whether they are 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band based.

Oct. 2: WECA changes name to Wi-Fi Alliance. The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance bows to the power of its trademark and changes its name to The Wi-Fi Alliance.

Aug. 5: Proxim completes Orinoco product line acquisition.

June 25: Warchalking coined. Matt Jones combines hobo signs with wardriving to create the term warchalking.

June 17: Proxim to acquire Orinoco product line from Agere.

May 5-10: Newer firmware fixes part of WEP problem. Interop Labs (iLabs) configures and demonstrates cutting-edge interoperable 802.1x solutions at the Networld+Interop trade show in Las Vegas. In the course of configuring demos, the iLabs team finds that recent firmware revisions fix the weak IV problem that allows WEP cracking.

April. Musenki ships beta units. Musenki ships beta embedded Linux units.

Mar. 18: Sky Dayton keynotes CTIA conference. Sharing stage with VoiceStream/T-Mobile CEO John Stanton, Sky predicts that Wi-Fi and 3G will coexist -- "It will be like 'my chocolate fell into your peanut butter.'"


CTIA million-square foot hot spot. CTIA, Boingo, SmartCity and the Orange County Convention Center work together to bring Wi-Fi to the CTIA conference in Orlando. Hot spot encompasses more than one million square feet of wireless access -- believed to be the largest indoor deployment of Wi-Fi to date.

Concourse launches Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Concourse Communications rolls out its first installation.

Zhrodague WiFi Mapserver started. Maps wireless networks to street maps using Netstumbler output.

Feb. 6: 802.1x flaws uncovered. William Arbaugh releases "An Initial Security Analysis of the IEEE

802.1x Security Standard,"
the first paper to seriously question 802.1x's integrity, including susceptibility to man-in-the-middle attacks, and a lack of a mechanism to certify access points.

Jan. 21: Boingo Wireless launches service. Services launches in hundreds of cafes, airports and hotels. Boingo's smart client software includes automated authentication, built-in database of hot spots, and personal VPN in addition to the sniffing, profile management and a point-and-click interface.

January. Instant802 releases OpenAP. OpenAP is a Linux distribution for select access points.


December. Boingo Wireless announcement. Boingo Wireless announces its existence after several months of secrecy. Boingo owns no hot spots, but has created a client software package to aggregate partner hot spots into a seamless, single sign-on network.

Oct. 11. MobileStar lays off staff according to c|net report. MobileStar lays off staff, keeps network mostly running, puts itself up for sale. A few months later, through a bankruptcy filing, VoiceStream (part of Deutsche Telekom) purchases its assets, and rebrands them T-Mobile Wireless Broadband.

Aug. 20: AirSnort is released.

Aug. 7: Practical demonstration of breaking WEP. Avi Rubin announces that he has been part of a team that has broken WEP, with Adam Stubblefield and John Ioannidis. The paper, AT&T Labs Technical Report TD-4ZCPZZ, is the first dislosed attack against WEP that uses the Fluhrer/Mantin/Shamir attack.

Aug. 1: Breezecom/Floware rebrands as Alvarion.

Early August. RC4 flaw. Fluhrer, Mantin, Shamir stun the world by finding a flaw in the RC4 algorithm that leads to a devastating attack against WEP. Their research is published as "Weaknesses in the Key Scheduling Algorithm of RC4" and is presented to the 8th Annual Workshop on Selected Areas in Cryptography.

July 16-21: At the 7th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking, a team of researchers from Berkeley (Nikita Borisov, Ian Goldberg, and David Wagner) publish the first serious paper that receives a great deal of press attention about problems with WEP, titled "Intercepting Mobile Communications: The of 802.11."

July 9: BB2W files for bankruptcy.

June. 802.1x ratified.

Apr. 12: Wardriving coined. Peter Shipley or Kevin Poulson coins the term and starts the wardriving craze.

Apr. 16. BB2W's Airora launch. BB2W launches Airora service in Boston with broad 1.5 Mbps service area claims, and a migration path to 54 Mbps. $50/month and a $100 antenna with a one-year service commitment.

April. BreezeCOM and Floware unite in a merger of equals in a $109M stock swap.

Mar. 30: Early academic study of Wi-Fi/WEP weaknesses. Bill Arbaugh and two students publish "Your 802.11 Wireless Network Has No Clothes," one of the first academic studies of 802.11 .

Mar. 21: Nokia launches 11 Mbps gear.

Mar. 5: Broadband2Wireless coverage: wireless access from cars.

Feb. 21: New York Times Circuits cover story on public space wireless ISPs. Wi-Fi blogger Glenn Fleishman authors an enormous piece on wireless ISPs. Several of the companies mentioned disappear over the next six months.

Feb. 5: Cisco completes acquisition of Radiata. They have been silent ever since.

February. Boingo Wireless founded by Sky Dayton under the code name "Project Mammoth." Sky founded EarthLink in 1993 after 80 frustrating hours trying to set up his first wired Internet connection. After a similarly frustrating experience with Wi-Fi, Sky pursues a vision of making Wi-Fi hot spots ubiquitous and easy to access.

January. Musenki founded. Their goal is to build open-source wireless networking equipment.

Starbucks picks MobileStar as wireless partner. Starbucks announces that MobileStar will build out all of its freestanding stores over about three years.


December. AerZone shuts down. AerZone, a contender for the leading airport hot spot wireless ISP, shuts down despite signed contracts to offer service at United and Delta waiting areas, and across certain major airports. The parent company cites a concern about raising funding, and also puts Laptop Lanes on the block, a company they'd acquired in early 2000.

Cisco finalizes Aironet acquisition.

Nov. 13: Cisco announces acquisition of Radiata.

October. WEP failure. As part of the standards process, Jesse Walker of Intel publishes "Unsafe at any key size; an analysis of the WEP encapsulation." It is document 802.11-00/362 (select year 2000, document 362 from here).


December. Early 802.11 engineering book published. IEEE Press publishes "IEEE 802.11 Handbook: A Designer's Companion" by Bob O'Hara and Al Petrick.

Nov. 9: Aironet to be acquired by Cisco.

Sept. 14: Nokia unwires N+I. Nokia unwires Network+Interop.


Apple AirPort. Apple Computer using Lucent Technologies Orinoco (formerly WaveLAN) equipment becomes the first operating system maker to include support for Wi-Fi, which they call AirPort. Apple also ships the necessary hardware for clients for $100 a pop, and the AirPort Base Station, an access point, for $300, a price they maintain until 2002 through a single product revision.


Wayport switches to Aironet. Wayport begins swapping out to Aironet 11 Mbps gear.

Feb. 18: Nokia acquisition. Nokia announces InTalk acquisition.

January. Pittsburgh's wireless community network founded.


Sept. 27: Wayport's funding. Wayport gets Series A funding.


June. 802.11 finalized. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) finalized the initial standard for wireless LANs, IEEE 802.11. This standard specified a 2.4GHz operating frequency with data rates of 1 and 2Mbps. When deploying a wireless LAN using the initial version of 802.11, you could opt for using frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) or direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS). Since the ratification of the initial 802.11 standard, the IEEE 802.11 Working Group (WG) has made several revisions through various task groups.


Wayport's first hotel. All back-ends built on Linux; system uses Breezecom frequency hopping. The hotel had all wired rooms, with wireless in the lobby and bar area.



Wayport incorporates.


Wayport/MobileStar predecessor founded. Plancom, Wayport and MobileStar's predecessor, founded with the intent to offer public space wireless access.


Wayport's genesis. Idea for Wayport occurred to Brett Stewart while he was working at AMD after a licensing deal with Xircom for what became the original 802.11 MAC technology.

Contributors (remove arglebargle and a dot from their addresses to email them): Kem McClelland, Musenki, Inc.; Drew, Wireless Anarchy; Alexander S. Curtis; Matthew Gast; Drew of Zhrodague; Christian Gunning, Boingo Wireless; Glenn Fleishman, Editor, 802.11b Networking News

This page is licensed under the GNU General Public License This means that it's not public domain, but rather any changes to the timeline must be folded back in to the main project by being emailed back to me. Likewise, any research I do will get folded into the definitive version. Anyone can reprint the timeline as long as they include a reference to the definitive page in this form: "This timeline is an open-source project maintained at" If the timeline moves, there will be sufficient notice for the new URL. If you have questions about how this works, email the timeline maintainer, Glenn Fleishman.

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March 2003

Intel launches Centrino with $300 million advertising campaign.