802.11 Wireless Standards Types and Speed Explained

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Wireless standards are most common in wireless devices or the Internet of Things (IoT).

You would have heard of some wireless standards such as 802.11a, 802.11b/g/n, or 802.11ac. These standards are collectively known as Wi-Fi technologies.

However, the other wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS (global position systems) also fulfill the network requirements.

Moreover, there is a continuous up-gradation in wireless standards, and the most recent one is the 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6). This type of up-gradation is very similar to software or smartphone updates.

What does 802.11 mean?

802.11 is a wireless standard developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

It is defined as how radio frequency (RF) is used for wireless links (two or more wireless devices).

Moreover, the wireless standard naming is speculated as the year and month when the first committee was set up in 1980 and month 02.

The number after dot that is 11 is speculated as the exact number of committees taking care of this standard.

When 802.11 was first developed, it allows a maximum speed of 2 Mbps which is too slow for most applications.

Later on, multiple updates were introduced so that it supports large aspects of the technology.

Each update includes a letter as a suffix to the wireless standard 802.11. For instance, 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ax.

What is the wireless standard requirement?

Most of the wireless standard has specified that the wireless device must have at least one antenna.

The antenna helps transmit or receive wireless signals (radio signals) on the specified frequency of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.

Moreover, the latest updates in the wireless standard required access points, and wireless clients must have more than one antennas.

Additionally, the recent wireless standard also supports Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) technology, improving the transmission rate and performance.

IEEE Wireless Standards

Let’s look into some of the most common wireless standards

802.11 (Wi-Fi 1)

This is the first wireless standard that was introduced in 1997. It offers a maximum transmission speed of 2 Mbps in a radio frequency of 2.4 GHz.

The original 802.11 wireless standard is too slow to use for modern networking needs.

802.11a (Wi-Fi 2)

The 802.11a wireless standard is far ahead of 802.11 in terms of speed. It supports a speed of 54 Mbps in a radio frequency of 5 GHz.

Moreover, 802.11a standard is compatible with wireless standard 802.11b and 802.11g.

802.11b (Wi-Fi 2)

The 802.11b standard supports a maximum transmission speed of 11 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz radiofrequency range.

It is designed to support original 802.11 standards, and it is also compatible with the 802.11g wireless standard.

802.11g (Wi-Fi 3)

802.11g is a popular wireless standard released in 2003.

It supports a speed of up to 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz radio-frequency range. Further, it allows the transmission of data over a distance of 150 feet.

It provides support to 802.11b wireless standard.

802.11n (Wi-Fi 4)

The 802.11n wireless standard has shown significant throughput in both the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz radio frequency ranges. WiFi 4 is approved in 2009

Moreover, the 802.11n standard supports a speed of 100 Mbps, but it may reach a speed of 600Mbps.

It can transmit data to a distance of 230 feet (70 m) from Access point (AP) and wireless clients. Also, it requires multiple antennas to support MIMO technology.

It can be compatible with 802.11a/b/g devices but with limited data rates.

802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5)

It is introduced in the year 2013.

802.11ac provides data speed in the range of 450 Mbps to 1.3 Mbps (1300 Mbps) by using MIMO technology.

It can support up to eight antennas and a radio frequency of 5 GHz.

The 802.11ac wireless standard is compatible with 802.11a/n standard devices but with limited data rates.

Wi-Fi 5 is widely used in large enterprises to support DAS and small cell wireless networks. Also, Wi-Fi 5 access point wireless connectivity supports retail and small businesses and user homes.

802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)

802.11ax is the latest wireless standard released in 2019. It is also known as High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW).

It has shown tremendous improvement in data transmission rate and increases the capacity to handle multiple devices. Additionally, it has shown great improvement in power efficiency.

It supports a data speed range of 1 GHz and 7 GHz in the radio frequency range of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

Wi-Fi 6 is designed to accommodate IoT (Internet of Things) devices and many users simultaneously. It is considered 10 times faster than Wi-Fi 5.