The WLAN Project Team (L-R): Mr Graham Daniels, Dr John O'Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr John Deane.

The WLAN Project Team (L-R): Mr Graham Daniels, Dr John O'Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr John Deane.

Wireless LANs

CSIRO invented and patented wireless LAN technology in the 1990s – a technology that has given us the freedom to work wirelessly in our homes and offices, using devices such as laptops and smart phones.

  • 5 May 2009 | Updated 1 April 2012

Overview

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Today, this wireless network connectivity is in products such as phones, televisions, cameras, laptops, printers, routers and games consoles.

In fact, CSIRO’s WLAN technology is estimated to be in more than three billion devices worldwide.   It is used in offices, public buildings, homes and coffee shops - often called 'WiFi Hotspots'.

CSIRO's wireless invention lies at the heart of what is now the most popular way to connect to the internet without wires.

From outer space to the world

The invention came out of CSIRO's pioneering work in radioastronomy. That work involved complex mathematics known as 'fast Fourier transforms' as well as detailed knowledge about radio waves and their behaviour in different environments.

Indoor environments are particularly difficult for the rapid exchange of large amounts of data using radio waves. The CSIRO team solved the main problem of wireless networking, called reverberation, where the radio waves from the outgoing signal bounce around the surrounding environment causing an echo that distorts the signal.

CSIRO solved these problems in a unique way at a time when many of the major communications companies around the world were trying, but with less success, to solve the same problem.

A winning invention

CSIRO inventors Dr John O’Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr Graham Daniels and Mr John Deane created this technology in the 1990s while working in the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics, now called the CSIRO ICT Centre.

In 2009, Dr John O’Sullivan was awarded both the CSIRO Chairman’s Medal and the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

The team is credited with creating a technology that will be in over five billion devices worldwide by the time the patent expires at the end of 2013.  Australians can be proud that the rapid global expansion of wireless communications is in part possible because of the now widely acknowledged WLAN methodology invented by scientists at the CSIRO.