Wi-Fi uses both single-carrier direct-sequence spread spectrum radio technology (part of the larger family of spread spectrum systems) and multi-carrier orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) radio technology. The deregulation of certain radio-frequencies[by whom?] for unlicensed spread spectrum deployment enabled the development of Wi-Fi products, Wi-Fi's onetime competitor HomeRF, Bluetooth, and many other products such as some types of cordless telephones.
In the US, the FCC first made unlicensed spread spectrum available in rules adopted on May 9, 1985.
Many other countries later adapted these FCC regulations, enabling use of this technology in all major countries. The FCC action was proposed by Michael Marcus of the FCC staff in 1980 and the subsequent regulatory action took 5 more years. It was part of a broader proposal to allow civil use of spread spectrum technology and was opposed at the time by mainstream equipment manufacturers and many radio system operators.
Wi-Fi technology has its origins in a 1985 ruling by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that released several bands of the radio spectrum for unlicensed use. In 1991 NCR Corporation/AT&T (later Lucent Technologies and Agere Systems) invented the precursor to 802.11 / Wi-Fi in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands. The inventors initially intended to use the technology for cashier systems; the first wireless products were brought on the market under the name WaveLAN with raw data rates of 1 Mbit/s and 2 Mbit/s. Vic Hayes, who held the chair of IEEE 802.11 for 10 years and has been called the "father of Wi-Fi" was involved in designing the initial 802.11b and 802.11a standards within the IEEE.
In 1992, the CSIRO obtained a patent in Australia for their wireless data transfer technology. In 1996, they obtained a patent for the same technology in the US.WiFi uses the mathematical formula in the patents. In 2000, CSIRO demonstrated the world's first wireless local area network internet connection.
In April 2009, 14 tech companies including Intel, Microsoft, HP, Dell, agreed to pay CSIRO $250 million for their Wi-Fi patent infringements.
Europe leads overall in uptake of wireless-phone technology, but the US leads in Wi-Fi systems partly because it leads in laptop computer usage. As of July 2005, there were at least 68,643 Wi-Fi locations worldwide, a majority in the US, followed by the UK and Germany. The US and Western Europe have about 80% of the worldwide Wi-Fi users. Plans are underway in metropolitan areas of the US to provide free public Wi-Fi coverage. Even with these large numbers and more expansion, the extent of actual Wi-Fi usage is lower than expected. Jupiter Research found that only 15% of people have used Wi-Fi and only 6% in a public place.