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The History of Hotel Wi-Fi

With the ubiquity of mobile and always-on connectivity, it's hard to believe it was less than 20 years ago that Wi-Fi was first available in homes and just over 10 years since the first iPhone came out. When Eleven first started in 2002, the Wi-Fi brand had just come out and hotel Internet was still almost all wired. To see how far we've really come, it's interesting to look back at the history of Wi-Fi.


1971: ALOHAnet was an early forerunner to Ethernet, and then the ALOHA protocol preceded the IEEE 802.11 protocols.

1985: The FCC first made unlicensed spread spectrum available in the ISM bands; this sets the stage for the Wi-Fi we know today.

1991: NCR Corporation with AT&T Corporation invented the precursor to 802.11, intended for use in cashier systems. The first wireless products were under the name WaveLAN; they are the ones credited with inventing Wi-Fi.

1997: the 802.11 protocol is released, this is the technology that will drive what we now know as Wi-Fi

1999: The Wi-Fi brand is officially born from the Wi-Fi alliance. Like Band-Aid and Kleenex, it’s now the common phrase for wireless connectivity.

2003: faster speeds available, starting to catch up with wired speeds at affordable rates, Wi-Fi is starting to spring up in hotels.

2007: first iPhone comes out, changing the game and a precursor to the world of IoT to come; Wi-Fi becomes more ubiquitous in hotels and public spaces.

Since then, the hospitality industry has come a long way with Wi-Fi. The 2000s bore the idea of tiered or "Freemium" Internet, in which a hotel offers a free basic level of Wi-Fi and charge for higher performance. Today, guests are even more likely to understand the value of higher levels of Wi-Fi performance. Some guests only want to check email or surf the web while others want to share large files, conduct video conferences or play interactive games, and most understand there can be a cost associated with that. It's interesting to note, that as little as 12% adoption for a premium plan can pay for a property’s entire Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Even more recently, brands started to understand the idea that Wi-Fi is a brand asset, not just an IT program. Suddenly, Wi-Fi wasn’t just about connecting devices or direct monetization, it is about getting closer to guests and connecting them to your brand to build loyalty.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will explore the evolution of hotel Wi-Fi and how central network management plays an integral part in enabling brands to deliver better connectivity.

Want to see how ElevenOS guest Wi-Fi platform enables hoteliers to better connect with guests and build loyalty? Talk to a Wi-Fi specialist