One thing which often confuses people when it comes to looking for the best wireless adapters is the standards that the adapters are compatible with. If you are a beginner to wireless networking then standards will be something that you may never have heard of. Within this article you will find out everything that you need to know about the different wireless network standards available and when they were introduced.

The Different Wireless Network Standards

Typically there are five main wireless network standards. These include:

  • 802.11
  • 802.11b
  • 802.11a
  • 802.11g
  • 802.11n

Each of the above standards has their own advantages and disadvantages and they have all been created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The 802.11 Standard

The 802.11 standard was the first standard to be introduced by IEEE. It was developed in 1997 and it was named after the group of people who created it. It was only made to support a network with a bandwidth of up to 2Mbps and so it tended to be slower than what was needed for many applications. These days’ 802.11 standard wireless adapters are no longer created.

The 802.11b Standard

In July 1999, IEEE improved on the original 802.11 standard. It expanded to cover a bandwidth of up to 11Mbps. It was comparable with traditional Ethernet and it still used the original 802.11 unregulated radio frequency of 2.4 GHz. The reason many Vendors use the unregulated frequencies is because it tends to lower the cost of production.

The main problem with the 802.11b standard being unregulated was that it could interfere with microwave ovens and other appliances that used a 2.4GHz frequency. It was possible to install 802.11b standard products away from other similar frequency products to avoid disturbance so that is what most people tried to do.

The 802.11a Standard

As well as the 802.11b upgraded standard, IEEE also developed another similar standard known as 802.11a. In fact, 802.11a was developed before 802.11b but it was not as popular with consumers as 802.11b. It also cost the company more to create and run so the 802.11a standard is often better used in businesses. The 802.11b standard is better for home use.

One of the main advantages to the 802.11a standard is that it supports a bandwidth of up to 50Mbps. It also has a regulated frequency of 5GHz which means that there should be no disturbance to the network signal. However this is not always good news as it actually shortens the range of the network. So if you have a large business it may be difficult to get the coverage that you need from one wireless 802.11a standard. The standard products also have trouble penetrating through walls and other obstacles.

One thing to keep in mind is that 802.11b and 802.11a wireless adapters cannot be used together. They are not compatible with each other because of the fact that they use different frequency types. It is possible to find some adapters with hybrid capabilities but the devices that connect to the adapter have to use just one standard.

The 802.11g Standard

The next upgrade to the Wlan standard was introduced in 2002-2003. This new 802.11g standard attempted to combine the benefits of both the 802.11a and the 802.11b standards. It supported a bandwidth of up to 54Mbps and it used a frequency of 2.4GHz so that it had a wider range than the 5GHz 802.11a network standard.

A good advantage that comes with the 802.11g standard is that it is backwards compatible with the 802.11b network standard. This basically means that any 802.11g access points will allow you to use a 802.11b wireless adapter.

The 802.11n Standard

The latest Wi-Fi network standard to be introduced by IEEE was the 802.11n standard. The unique thing about this newer standard is that it provides higher bandwidth support throguh the use of multiple wireless antennas and signals. Still in its finanlising stages, the 802.11n standard is set to support a bandwidth of more than 100Mbps. As it has a higher signal srength, it will also provide quite wide coverage and it will be backwards compatible with 802.11g wireless adapters.

Comparing the Standards

Now that you have learnt more about the different main standards available, how can you work out which one to choose? Well you should already have a good idea of which ones are most likely going to be suited to you through the descriptions given above. However to sum up, the benefits and potential cons of each network include:

  • The 802.11b standard is the cheapest one available. It has a good signal range and it does not easily become obstructed. On the downside it is the slowest standard available.
  • The 802.11a standard is great for businesses and it has a fast maximum speed. It has a regulated frequency which prevents its signal from becoming obstructed. On the downside it does not have wide coverage and it has a high cost.
  • The 802.11g standard again isn’t easily obstructable and it has good signal coverage. It is also backwards compatible with 802.11b wireless adapters. The potential downside includes that it could be obstructed because it does use an unregulated frequency.
  • The 802.11n standard is the fastest standard available and it has a low chance of being affected by outside sources. However it typically costs the most money to implement it into the home or your business.

Other Wireless Standards Available

As well as the main Wi-Fi standards, there are also other Bluetooth standards available as well as more 802.11 standards too. For example, there is an 802.11h and an 802.11j standard and they both have very specific jobs. Thye are basically extensions of Wi-Fi technology.

There are various Bluetooth standards available that are different to the 802.11 standards. Their main difference is that they only tend to cover up to 10 metres. They also have quite a low badnwidth with most supporting up to 3Mbps maximum. These are better suited to handheld devices and they are hardly ever used for WLAN networking.

Overall there are many different wireless network standards that you should be aware of. By knowing more about each one, it is then easier to choose the right standard for your networking needs.

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