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Wi-Fi is a registered trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance1, and is used to indicate equipment which conforms to an interworking profile for IEEE 802.11a, -b or -g. These standards are available from the IEEE web site2, though the interested or simply curious reader will need to download their individual copy due to licensing conditions. The profile is the bedrock for the widespread adoption of the radio technology, which is typically being used for home (computer) networks, business computer networks and public access to the Internet.
This paper is concerned principally with the application of Wi-Fi to public access to the Internet, and the issues of lawful interception (LI) which such connection raises. In spite of various criticisms of the various IEEE 802.11 standards, principally in relation to area spectral efficiency and security, IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11g equipment is being fitted to a great deal of new personal computing equipment. Intel’s Centrino initiative3 packages IEEE 802.11a, b or g functionality together with a low power consumption mobile processor. This allows attractive portable computing equipment to be manufactured at an affordable price. Naturally, there are many other players in the market-place.
For the user, 802.11 technology brings freedom to connect to the Internet with no wires, and frequently with no need for prior arrangement. There is a downside for the user in the sense that frequently 802.11 access has to be paid for. The business model for offering 802.11 access is still being developed. One could say that it is a lot easier to manufacture 802.11 equipment than it is to make money offering Internet access using 802.11, and a number of business models are being tried.