History of Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) in the Unlicensed Bands

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A brief history of the development of WLAN standards and products is presented in the context of explaining how unlicensed spectrum regulations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have affected the industry. In general, the FCC's initiative to create an "Unlicensed commons" for various forms of wireless communication applications has been the key enabler of today's multi-billion dollar per year WLAN industry. In particular, certain regulatory decisions over the past 25 years regarding these bands have had profound, generally beneficial but sometimes unexpected influence on the WLAN industry. This paper will attempt to document these inflection points and their impacts on WLANs.