Wireless communication refers to transmission of data or signals via electromagnetic waves. In other words, it is a form of communication that does not involve the use of wires. Instead, radio and microwaves are used to transfer data or signal from one device to another. The first wireless transmission system was developed in early 20th century. This system used Morse code which was a combination of dots and dashes or long and short electric signals assigned to each letter of the English alphabet. The signals were sent and received via wires. This enabled transmission of text based information over a long distance. It was tested in 1844 when the message “What hath God wrought” was sent from Washington to Baltimore in United States of America. Later, radio communication was developed that enabled transmission of voice and multimedia data through wireless technology. The technology has been developed and refined for over one and half century. Today, wireless communication is used in cell phones, Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite television, local area networks and many other personal devices which include computers and entertainment devices. The technology has evolved into a big industry that facilitates transmission of digital content to million of people around the world.
Michael Faradays work and experiments on electricity laid the foundation for the development of wireless technology. Faraday investigated the nature of electricity through experimentation. In 1831, he discovered the concept of electromagnetism which employed in the making of motors. The discovery made connection between electricity and magnetism. Faraday concepts about electromagnetism were used by Maxwell Clerk to develop electromagnetic theory which was later published in his book titled “Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism” in 1873. He used equations to demonstrate the existence electromagnetic waves propagating through space at a speed of light. This became the most important discovery in the telecommunication industry. Scientist began to think about how electromagnetic waves can be used to transfer signals. According to Maxwell, the electromagnetic waves were many times faster than sound.
There use of electromagnetic waves was put into practice until 19th century when Italian born Engineer Guglielmo Marcolli transmitted the first communication signal over a distance of about one and half miles in 1896.Marcolli employed electromagnetic waves to transmit and receive communication signals. The frequencies used were those near the frequencies of radio waves. Despite his invention Marcolli did not get attention home. The government of Italy was did not show interest in either promoting his discovery or registering it as an intellectual property of one of its citizens. Consequently, Marcolli moved to England to demonstrate his invention to British telecommunication authorities.
Marcolli arrived in England in 1896 with his developed wireless telegraph gadget. He showed how his telegraph apparatus worked to the British Post Office and Telegraph authorities and received a patent for his invention in the same year. The British Post Office and Telegraph authorities used Marcolli technology to transfer wireless signals over short distances ranging between 2 to 4 miles. The first major breakthrough on Marcolli discovery happened in late 1901 when he transmitted first ever long distance signal from Poldhu to St. John in United Kingdom. K. This successful transmission triggered global interest in wireless communication.
In 1927 the first commercial transatlantic radiotelephone emerged. This was a service that was being operated by United Kingdom and United States of America. Two cities were covered in the service namely New York and London. It was using a one way circuit that allowed about 2000 calls per to be made in a year. The communication was made via long wave of about 5000 meters in wavelength which corresponds to a frequency of about 60 kHz. The initial call rate was about fifteen pounds for three minutes on UK side. This was expensive for many people at that time. Consequently, very few people used the service. Besides, the network was not consistently clear. It was prone to atmospheric disturbances that often disrupted the communication between the tow countries. The problem experienced by the transatlantic radiotelegraphy prompted research on the feasibility of telephone cables as alternative ways of carrying communication signals in 1930s. Hence, coaxial cables were developed.
The interest in wireless communication grew during World War 1. Marcolli through research had hypothesized the use of radar in communication. His idea was picked by countries that participated in the war. The radar technology was used in World War II (1939-1945) by both Allied and Axis forces. Germany had land stationed radar called Freya and another one based on sea called Seetakt which could detect opponent aircraft as far as 100 miles away.
The radio communication was widely used during the entire World War II period. It facilitated the transmission of messages from the bases of both the allied and axis forces. After World War II, radio communication switched to consumer use. This marked the beginning of serious research on the technology. The first progressive development of wireless technology started in America. . Before the world wars telegraph was the only radio communication available but after it, other forms of radio communication emerged as private companies began to dedicate resources on the development of the technology. In 1946, the car based mobile telephone was established in St. Louis. This was the first mobile telephone service in the world established by American Telephone and Telegraph Company. The corporation used the Mobile Telephone Service technology to operate radio to radio communication in many towns and highways in America.
Although, research on wireless communication continued in 1940s, no formidable theory was developed until 1948 by Claude Shannon. He proposed a theory called information theory that was mainly concerned about information quantification. Shannon worked as Bell Laboratory employee. He theorized transformation of data into bits that could be transmitted over specific time. The theory was published in a paper titled “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” in 1948. He showed how Algebra and Thermodynamic concepts could be used in communication. Two main concepts were captured in the information theory. They include data compression also known as source coding and error detection referred to as channel encoding. Shannon used Mathematics showed how to use mathematical concepts to calculate the amount of data that could be transmitted via a transmission system which forms the basis of data encoding.
The limitations of radio technologies used in 1950s and 1960s led to serious research on satellite as means of signal and data transmission. The experiments on satellite communication commenced in Bell Labs. The company had interest in interest in undertaking overseas communications at lower costs. Bell developed Echo 1 satellite in 1960. The satellite became the first communication satellite to be developed in the world. The success of Bell’s Echo 1 project stimulated great interest in satellite technology. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT &T) began to finance the development of communication by Bell Labs. . Two Telstar were built with a communication channel of 50 MHz. Telstar 1 was launched in 1962 while the second one was launched in 1963. The failure of command system of Telstar 1 led to development of Telstar 2. The failure was attributed to degradation of transistors due to Van Allen Bell radiation. Both satellites were fired to the orbit by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
In 1970, The Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) chose BBN, to design and develop an Advanced Research Project Agency Network (ARPANET) to be used for communication in the military. ARPANET formed the foundation for invention of internet. This project was to guard the flow of information originating fro, military installations via a more secure protocol or rules referred to as Network Control Protocol. The initial data transfer over this protocol happened between computer systems located at University of California in Los Angeles and Stanford Research Institute. By 1973, ARPANET was operational. It connected four nodes at a speed of about 56kbits per circuit using the Network Control Protocol. This protocol enabled computers to break data into IP packets and deliver them to the recipient. This led to invention of email in 1971, telnet in 1972.
In 1977, the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) was developed by Bell Labs. It was first installed and used in United States of America. This technology was implemented in cell system whereby geographical regions were divided into cells hence the name cellular phones. This technology was analogue and it experienced problems of interference that affected quality of services. The other analogue technologies that were used in 1980s were Nordic Mobile Telephony in Scandinavian Countries and Total Access Communications in United Kingdom.
The TCP was initially meant to meet the requirement of data communication in the United States Department of Defense. This was part of the project established by Advanced Research project Agency. It was partnership between universities and other research organizations to develop protocol and build large networks. The actual planning of the project began in 1974. The proposal was done by Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn. The initial name was Internet protocol Suite which combines both network layer and transport layer protocol. It was a set of rules and standards that gave the details on how computers communicate and other standards for networking and data routing. In 1983 TCP/IP was chosen as the official standard protocol for APRANET. This paved way for the development of internet.
ARPANET was widely used and by 1985 it had become congested. The National Science Foundation (NSF) of United States of America initiated the development of NSFNET which was launched in 1989. This consisted of regional networks and other networks connected to main network. The connection between networks was upgraded to 1.5Mbits per second by use of T1 technology. The NSF main network connected about 13 sites. In 1991 the NSF moved its main backbone network to a private company and began charging institutions that used its network. IBM, MCI and Merit respond by starting Advanced Network Services ANS which replaced NFSNET. This was named ANSNET and transmitted data at 45Mbit per second using T3 technology.
At the same time when the TCP was gaining prominence, Global System for Mobile Communication was emerging as the widely adopted mobile technology in 1980s. GSM was a standard group established in 1982 for European mobile operation standard. It has become the most used and accepted standard in the world. The technology entails subdivision of 200 kHz channels into 25 kHz time slots. In United States it operates between 1.9 GHz to 850 MHz. It uses Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) for transmitting signals. Because it is a digital technology it has the capacity of carrying up to 64 kilobytes per second to 120 megabytes per second. The actual phase 1 of GSM was launched in 1990 and by 1991 the commercial delivery of the services had began. Today, the GSM service is widely used in developing countries especially in rural areas where the voice and data traffic is low.
In 1980s the urge for faster communication grew and telecommunication focused on cellular solutions. In 1990s the analogue technology could not guarantee the much needed speed of connection. Hence, Global System for Mobile Communication became very popular in 1990s. .GSM could support about 7 users per 200 kHz. Other technologies later emerged such as Quad band GSM which supported 850, 900 1800 and 1900 MHz channels. GSM is still dominantly used because of low cost to establish and deploy. In 1994, GPRS was launched as a data interface for GSM which enabled users to access internet via mobile phones. The other digital technology that was developed alongside GSM was Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) by Qualcomm. The technology allowed users to same frequency band. It formed the foundation for the development of 3G WCDMA and High Speed Packet Data Access (HSPA).
The after 1992 was marked by widespread internet use and development of internet technologies. In 1993, the Internet protocol version 4 IPv4 was established as a means of ensuring reliable transmission of data over the internet. In late 1990s the development of virtual private networks VPNs based on Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and IPSEC security technique becomes available. The period after the year 2000 was marked by increased use of wireless internet accessed through mobile phones, equipment having Wi-Fi and satellites. Terms such as hot spots evolved which refers to a region where internet services can be accessed through wireless technology. Many telecommunication companies began to offer internet services together with voice services. This significantly reduced the density of internet cabling in offices and homes. Companies and individuals began to source for wireless internet connection as a means of saving space and costs.
In 1998 technologies companies which included IBM, Intel. Nokia Ericson and Toshiba formed a consortium whose primary objective was to develop Bluetooth technology for wireless exchange of data between handheld devices or stationary computers. The technology was to be used for data exchange between handheld devices or stationary devices such as personal computers and music players. Bluetooth technology is a form of wireless communication embedded in the devices. Basically, it enables users to share music, information, videos, pictures and other digital contents via wireless communication. The first ever phone using the technology was delivered into the market in 2000. In 2003, other devices such as printers and laptops had the technology. The technology opened means for people to transfer digital content without fixing cables. Thus, the volume of data exchanged significantly increased after the year 2000. Devices such as printers which had Bluetooth services made it easier for users to print information at any point provided that a communication could be established between their devices and the printers.
The emergence of Wi-Fi technology can be traced back in the year 1985when the Federal communication Commission of United States decided to open frequency band for wireless spectrum. This allowed Wi-Fi to use the frequencies without the requirement of license fro the government in 1985. The bands were 900MHz, 2.4GHz and 5.8 GHz had been already allocated to other gadgets that used radio waves for communication. This prompted technology firms to begin building their own wireless network on their devices to take advantage of FCC decision. Because there was no standard the harnessing of this technology stalled as various manufactures used their own bands that were not compatible to the devices. This led to creation of standard 802.11 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in 1997. In 1999 a group of electronics companies joined together to form Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA today known as Wi-Fi Alliance. This was followed by the delivery of first Wi-Fi routers into the market in 1999. The routers were built using 802.11a and 80.2.11b standards. In the year 2007 IEEE allowed data transmission of 600Mbs from 2MBs. This again promoted the use of the technology as means of data transfer.
The most technology changer in Wireless technology industry was the 3G technology. This technology was expected to completely replace the 2G technology which included Global System for Mobile Communication. It was named 3G because it was based on third generation of standards of telecommunication hardware. The technology enables network operators to provide large range of services efficiently. These include Video, calls and multimedia information in all in mobile environment. It was first launched by Japanese company called NTT Do Como in 2001. The second company to launch it was SK Telecom of South Korea in 2002. Today many telecommunication companies are upgrading to 3G services to provide better services to their clients.
The latest technology in wireless industry is the 4G technology which uses Long Term Evolution (LTE). It was launched in 2009 to provide enhanced data transfer speeds and quality voice calls transmission. Among, the companies that have started rolling out the technology include Airtel in India and Verizon Wireless in United States of America.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that the emergence of wireless communication has brought both positive and negative effects to the society. It has made it possible for people to share information and knowledge. This has led to better cultural understanding among people to a large extent contributed to globalization. The communication has also been beneficial to business because it has reduced the cost of internet installation by eliminating the use of cables and multiple switches. On the other hand, wireless communication is contributing to societal moral decadence. The technology has made internet access possible via handheld devices. Hence, it has increased viewership of pornographic and other illicit sites.
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