Wireless Standards- The 802.11 Family

IEEE is the leading developer of international standards for telecommunication, information technology and power generation.  They are responsible for the IEEE 802 standards for wireless networking.  Currently, the IEEE Standards Association has over 900 active standards and 400 more in development.

IEEE created the first wireless standard, 802.11 in 1997, but it didn’t stick around long.  With a maximum of only 2 Mbps, 802.11 was expanded upon to create 802.11b.  This new standard supported bandwidth up to 11 Mbps which is comparable to the standard Ethernet.  802.11b was also the first set of operational rules to establish interoperability of wireless LAN products from different manufacturers.  At the same time, IEEE also created an additional extension to the original 802.11 standard called 802.11a.  802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and has a higher frequency than 802.11b, around 5 GHz.  Because the two technologies had different frequencies, this made them incompatible with each other, but a new standard was about to emerge that would offer the best of both.

802.11g emerged in 2003 and supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and utilizes the 2.4 GHz frequency, providing greater range.  This standard offers a fast maximum speed, a good range and is also backwards compatible with 802.11b.  The newest standard in the 802.11 family is not yet finalized, but it is said it will improve upon the 802.11g bandwidth.  The newest standard is known as 802.11n, it will utilize multiple wireless signals instead of just one and this should provide data rates of over 100 Mbps.

Of course these are just a few of the wireless standards put in place to make your life easier.  The IEEE has also created standards that provide security improvements and even enhance existing standards.  This has also just been an overview of the 802.11 family of wireless standards, there are many go to other standards that affect wireless technologies.  For instance you can read more about the standard 802.16, which is the standard for WiMAX, in my post Recent WiMAX Venture Has Many Wondering if The Wireless Revolution Has Arrived.