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Wireless Network Standards

The technical standards for Wi-Fi technology are being developed under the aegis of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The group of standards in which the principles for interaction of the devices in a wireless network are currently defined includes the standards IEEE 802.11а, 802.11b, and 802.11g. Each standard in the group applies to networks operating in a specific frequency band. The table below shows the characteristics of each of the standards in the 802.11 group.
 

Features

Wireless Standard

  802.11a 802.11b 802.11g

Frequency

5 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.4 GHz

Max. Data Transmission Speed

54 Mbps 11 Mbps 54 Mbps*

Backwards Compatibility

802.11b/g 802.11g 802.11b

*Can be increased to 108 Mbps using special software.

Standard 802.11b equipment and networks are currently used more widely than 802.11a and 802.11g equipment and networks for a number of reasons, including the following:

Equipment cost.  IEEE 802.11b technology was the first wireless network technology offered to consumers. The manufacturers mass produced 802.11b equipment, making it possible to offer lower prices.
Equipment compatibility.  Equipment manufactured to comply with the newer standards is backwards compatible with equipment manufactured under the earlier standards. However, equipment manufactured under earlier standards cannot be used as access points to connect equipment manufactured under the newer standards. In the group of wireless communications standards, Standard 802.11b was released first, followed by 802.11g, and then 802.11а. Thus, 802.11g hardware devices used as access points support simultaneous connection of 802.11g and 802.11b wireless devices to a network, but do not support 802.11а devices, while 802.11а access points support wireless equipment complying with any standards in the 802.11 group.
Operating Range.  As the frequency of the radio signal increases, the operating range of the network equipment decreases, while the power drawn by the transmitters increases. Equipment complying with Standards 802.11b and 802.11g provides more reliable communications over longer distances, since it operates at a lower frequency than the 802.11а equipment.
 

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