Since the advent of telephones, people dreamed of communicating long distances without being tethered to a wall. When radio became available in the late 1890s, some indeed did so, but the communications were anything but private. In fact, wireless communication began in the pre-industrial age via smoke signals and flags, and an assortment of audible systems such as horns, bells, and drums.
World War II presented the problem of communicating data extremely long distances securely, and solutions were found using different methods including the Nazi’s Enigma machine and the United States’ ‘Code Talkers’. Still, it was an inefficient method of sending and receiving data. This was good enough reason for the U.S. Government to find a solution, and it established the DARPA project to create a network that one day would become the Internet. During this time, advances were made in using radio frequencies to accomplish the task of sending data wirelessly.
The government agency which manages all radio transmissions in the U.S. is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which allocates radio frequencies, or spectrums, that range from 3KHz to 300GHz (though ‘secret’ frequencies above and below that may exist). For commercial and non-commercial applications, the FCC either leases spectrum space to a single entity or opens it up for use for ‘standards’. Wireless communications providers, such as AT&T and DirecTV, lease spectrum space that is unique unto themselves. This allocation process allows secure data transmissions and prevents one company from hampering another through the use of overpowering radio signals, which is a problem with using a wireless communications device such as the home router. Devices using open frequencies depend on standards to communicate with each other: the typical wireless router uses 802.11 and headsets generally use Bluetooth. These open frequencies are not controlled by a single company like the leased frequencies.
From its meager roots in smoke signals, wireless communication has become the fastest growing segment of the communications industry. There are currently over two billion cellular phone users worldwide. Cellular phones have become a part of everyday life in developed countries, and they are becoming more and more common in providing wireless communication in developing countries. The vision of these wireless communications providers is to continue to enhance productive activities in the home, workplace, healthcare, entertainment, education, military, industrial, and many other industries. The applications are endless.