802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n Standards; Relevant Information About Wireless Networking Bandwidth
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802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n Standards; Relevant Information About Wireless Networking Bandwidth

The 802.11 specification uses 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n standards. Each standard is explained in this article.

The information technology industry uses acronyms abundantly. The more you get familiar with the acronyms, the easier it will be to learn.

IEEE: Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, Inc. The IEEE created and are currently maintaining the 802.11a/b/g/n standards. (I will be posting an article about the history of the IEEE in the near future.)

IEEE 802.11: (802.11a/b/g/n) is a set of standards for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4, 3.6 and 5 GHz frequency bands. They have been created and are maintained by the IEEE.

Here is a breakdown of each standard and how they relate to the 802.11 specification.

  • 802.11a: An amendment to the 802.11 specification. Using the 5 GHz band, data rates of 54 Mbit/s were achieved. Realistically the throughput was about mid-20 Mbit/s. It has been implemented worldwide. Range: Typical indoor range is 115 ft. and outdoor is about 330 ft. approximately. Speeds are determined based on how far your device is away from access point.
  • 802.11b: Another amendment to the 802.11 specification. Using the 2.4 GHz band, data rates of 11 Mbit/s were implemented. On this band other devices can cause interference. (Cordless phones, microwaves. etc.) Range: Typical indoor range is 100 ft. and outdoor is about 300 ft approximately.
  • 802.11g: An amendment to the 802.11 specification. Almost the same as 802.11b, data rates of 54 Mbit/s over the 2.4 GHz band were achieved. This is the most common standard used. Range: Typical indoor range is 125 ft and outdoor is about 460 ft approximately.
  • 802.11n: An amendment to the 802.11 specification. This standard was to improve the network throughput over the two previous standards. (802.11a/g) The maximum data rate is from 54 Mbit/s to 600 Mbit/s using for spatial streams at 40 Mhz. Range: Typically indoor range is about 250 ft. and outdoor is about 820 ft approximately.

The reason why the public can use the 2.4 GHz or the 900 MHz frequencies is that you don’t need a license to operate on them. You can thank the microwave for this. Your microwave blasts electromagnetic waves at 2.45 GHz to heat up your food. The wavelengths range from a millimeter all the way up to a meter, so why they call it a microwave is rather strange. It should be called a "mili-meterwave". 

2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz: In actuality the 5.0 GHz band offers very few advantages over the 2.4 band. A 5 GHz network can carry more data than a 2.4 GHz network assuming the electric power to the higher frequency radios is maintained at a higher level. However, some 802.11g network products match and even exceed this potential speed advantage of 5 GHz 802.11a by utilizing a pair of radios instead of one, increasing capacity up to 108 Mbit/s under the right conditions. The 802.11n standard uses the same principles(4 MIMO Streams), reaching a throughput of 600 Mbits/s.

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Comments (1)

Great writing! Simple and straightforward gets the point across. Now I know what the 802.11a/b/g/n in routers and smartphones mean.

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