Arrow

Dr John O’Sullivan
– The inventor of modern WiFi

10 July, 2022
Dr John O’Sullivan <br>– The inventor of modern WiFi | News | Pause Awards
George Hedon, founder and CEO, Pause Fest & Awards
George Hedon
10 July, 2022
Share

You may or may not have already heard of our very first Hall of Fame winner. And oh boy, was this a big deal! For the uninitiated, here’s introducing the 2020 Hall of Fame Award recipient – nominated internally and voted for wireless, thanks to his very own invention.

In 1974, the British physicist Stephen Hawking theorised that black holes were not always black. And as they became extremely hot and shrunk, they could blow up and hurl radio pulses through space.

“We needed to find a way to either detect the smeared signal or unsmear it all together.”

Dr John O’Sullivan

In 1977, while working at the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory in the Netherlands, John O’Sullivan co-authored a paper in the Journal of the Optical Society of America titled ‘Image sharpness, Fourier optics, and redundant-spacing interferometry’ with J. P. Hamaker and J. E. Noordam. This paper presented a technique for sharpening and improving picture clarity in radio astronomy images.

O’Sullivan never quite got around to detecting exploding black holes. But in a few years, he and his colleagues were tasked to do so. And so, they adapted the work to a different form of communication – one much closer to home and one that most of us take for granted.

20 years later, he was enticed to go back to Australia by his former boss, Dr. Bob Fratar. In his winning speech, O’Sullivan told us:

“It turned out to be not-so-easy. But a few years later, we got a good team together with a goal of making a new wireless network. This one would be much much faster than the existing one and equal to the best fibre optic network at the time.”

Dr John O’Sullivan
CSIRO Researchers WiFi Innovation patent
CSIRO engineers with WiFi prototype

In the early 1990s, a group of scientists led by O’Sullivan were working in the CSIRO’s radio astronomy division, looking at how to make wireless networks work as fast as wired networks. They built the invention which was then described in patent applications filed in 1992 and 1993. The final WLAN patent was subsequently granted on 23 January 1996 in the US.

Initially, the CSIRO planned to commercialise research via licensing. In 1997, Macquarie University Professor David Skellern and his colleague Neil Weste took a nonexclusive licence of the patent to further develop chips and technology under the new startup called Radiata.

Two years later, Cisco and Broadcom invested in Radiata – $4M with 11% stake for each investor and valuation at around $3M. In September 2000, Radiata demonstrated a chip complying with the recently-finalised IEEE 802.11a Wi-Fi standard at a major international exhibition. It could handle transmission rates of up to 54 Mb/s – as much as many common WLANs achieve to this very day.

Radiata, with its 53 employees, was acquired by Cisco in November 2000 for A$567M.

By 2002, the first unlicensed products containing CSIRO W-Fi technology had begun to appear on the market. In 2005-06 CSIRO filed patent infringement claims against giant companies such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Toshiba, ASUStek, Fujitsu, Nintendo, D-Link, Belkin, SMC Networks and 3Com.

CSIRO WiFi Innovation patent prototype
The WLAN Test Bed developed by the CSIRO. (Supplied: George Serras, NMA)

The District Court in the Easter District of Texas issued a ruling, in favour of CSIRO, in June 2007. As of April 2012, the CSIRO has earned over $430M in royalties and settlements arising from the use of this patent as part of the 802.11 standards, with as much as a billion dollars expected after further lawsuits against other parties.

“We didn’t fully realise this at the time, but there has indeed been an impact.”

Dr John O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan joined Morse Micro, the second startup that licensed technology from CSIRO in 2019. The Sydney-based company is developing a WiFi microprocessor, now known as WiFi HaLow.

This was an incredible story of how research commercialisation got out of hand, but in the end, proved to be a huge win for the Australian researchers at CSIRO. WiFi technology is possibly the one technology that most of us can’t imagine living without these days.

Most of the modern devices that have revolutionised the industry in the past two decades such as mobiles, tablets, modems, speakers, home devices and watches have in-built WiFi chips that modernised our lifestyles too.

Because of WiFi, we feel like we’re living in the future, and that’s all thanks to Dr. John O’Sullivan and his brilliant team at CSIRO. Thank you for your work and inspiring legacy.


Let Pause Awards tell your story
Entering first-timers
Check 2023 Pause Awards winners
Winners
Pause Awards Night: the community of champs
Pause Awards Night
2023 Years Summary page is here
Summary Page

Related posts


See who won in 2023


Read more

Category tracks



The Culture track seeks entries that exemplify the development of an inclusive and collaborative workplace culture, crucial for organisational success and growth. Submissions should illustrate transformative strategies implemented across core business functions, reflecting expertise, leadership, and a clear vision. These strategies should demonstrate a positive impact on the business, its employees, stakeholders, and customers, showcasing how a nurturing culture contributes to overall growth and innovation.

The Excellence track celebrates businesses that have demonstrated remarkable success and impact within their industry, regardless of their size. Entries for this category should illustrate how the business's strategic execution, guided by visionary leadership and exceptional expertise, has significantly influenced the industry. The focus will be on the tangible outcomes of these strategies, highlighting the company's ability to innovate, lead, and leave a lasting impression in its field.

The Good track is focused on recognising companies dedicated to their mission of creating a positive societal impact. Entries should highlight innovative solutions aimed at addressing global challenges such as environmental sustainability, social equity, and community well-being. Successful submissions will demonstrate how their initiatives contribute to significant changes, tackling issues like gender inequality, social imbalance, and injustice, thereby setting a precedent for responsible and impactful business practices.

Awarded to a single entry in a category, Grand Prix is the top accolade in that category. To win the Grand Prix, the entire Judging Board must unanimously agree that the entry deserves the accolade of being the best in that category.

The Growth track is about showcasing how businesses have enhanced productivity and execution to make a significant impact in their market. Entries should highlight innovative strategies that have optimised the customer journey, leading to increased engagement and commercial success. This track is for those who have effectively used their understanding of the market and customer needs to scale their business and achieve notable growth.

The Operators track seeks entries that showcase leadership in fostering innovation within their ecosystems. Ideal submissions will highlight how your initiatives have catalysed the creation of new products or services, bolstered by a culture that uplifts internal teams and the wider community. This track celebrates those who drive progress by empowering voices and forging transformative connections in their industry.


Categories


  • Always Evolving New

    Acknowledges a culture of continuous learning and improvement within a company, encourages employee development, and always looks for ways to optimise and innovate operations.


  • Big & Mighty Culture New

    Recognises companies (51-1000 employees) for their exceptional efforts in cultivating a culture that champions innovation.


  • Diverse Co.

    Celebrates workplaces dedicated to fostering innovation through a vibrant tapestry of diverse talents and perspectives.


  • Small & Mighty Culture New

    Applauds small teams of fewer than 50 employees for their remarkable ability to foster innovation and set new benchmarks in their domain.


  • Work Sweet Work

    Acknowledges companies that have achieved extraordinary employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, creating an exemplary workplace culture.


  • Company of the Year

    Honours an outstanding company that not only showcases exemplary leadership and resilience but also demonstrates a clear, quantifiable impact over the past year.


  • Customer Obsessed New

    Applauds prioritisation, understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of their customers, including feedback, personalised services and ensuring high satisfaction.


  • Defiant Ones

    Recognises firms that lead technological innovation, setting new standards and defining the future of their industries.


  • Hammer

    Celebrates companies that have not only defined success on their own terms but have also concretely demonstrated their triumphs over the past year.


  • I Wish I'd Done That

    Applauds ingenious, simple solutions in niche markets that spark a universal sentiment of admiration.


  • On the Rise

    Celebrates early-stage startups, under 4 years, that have shown remarkable progress and success in their initial years.


  • Prodigy

    Recognises young visionaries under 30 with outstanding talents and achievements, setting them apart in their fields.


  • Singularity

    Highlights AI-driven companies that are pioneering new services or integrating AI to create innovative products.


  • Women in Business

    Celebrates female entrepreneurs and leaders who are forging paths for future generations by creating more equitable opportunities.


  • B-Good

    Recognises businesses that redefine commercial success by positively transforming our economic system for the benefit of all stakeholders.


  • Circular Pioneer

    Celebrates companies at the forefront of circular economy practices, making substantial and sustainable differences.


  • Ethical Leadership New

    Commends companies exemplifying leadership in environmental and social governance, setting standards in corporate responsibility and ethical practices.


  • Going Green

    Acknowledges companies leading large-scale sustainable initiatives, addressing critical areas like clean energy and environmental justice.


  • Collab New

    Honours strategic partnerships and alliances with other businesses to leverage complementary strengths, access new markets, and share resources for synergistic growth and innovation.


  • Design First

    Celebrates companies where design is the heartbeat of innovation, engaging the whole team in crafting groundbreaking products.


  • Going Global New

    Applauds companies that have expanded their reach globally, showcasing exceptional growth and international success.


  • Great Pivot

    Acknowledges companies that adeptly navigate change, leveraging insights to pivot towards delivering outstanding products.


  • Movement

    Recognises unforgettable event experiences that resonate emotionally, drive social change, or achieve viral status.


  • New Model

    Honours businesses revolutionising markets with elegant and disruptive business models.


  • Next Level New

    Applauds companies which had successful strategic acquisition and integration of another entity, staff or an asset that allowed them to further grow and scale their services.


  • Wildfire

    Celebrates companies that have rapidly and significantly impacted their marketplace, online and offline, setting new standards for success.


  • Angel

    Honours visionary angel investors who've significantly contributed to early-stage startups, guiding them toward success.


  • C-Suite

    Recognises exceptional leadership qualities in high-ranking executives, showcasing their management and interpersonal excellence.


  • Creative Maverick New

    Honours unconventional thinkers with exceptional abilities to execute typically unimaginable initiatives, expertly coordinate teams, secure funding or successfully launch multiple ventures.


  • Ecosystem Star

    Celebrates individuals who energise and nurture their communities, fostering engagement and advocacy.


  • Future Builder

    Recognises the determination and resilience of founders who've embarked on the challenging journey of starting their own ventures.


  • Quiet Achiever New

    Applauds the unsung heroes whose behind-the-scenes efforts have led to flawless project executions and exceeded expectations.


  • Splash Down Under New

    Acknowledges international companies making a noteworthy entrance into the Australian market, enriching the local business ecosystem.


  • TopCoder

    Recognises developers for their outstanding technical skills, clean code, and collaborative spirit.


  • Venture Cap

    Salutes venture capital firms with a track record of backing transformative businesses, contributing significantly to Australia's economic growth.


  • Visionary New

    Recognises effective leadership by setting a clear vision, motivating the team, and making strategic decisions that guide their business towards its goals.

Early Entries end on:
00d : 00h : 00m : 00s
Enter now