IEEE 802.11 Wireless Standard
IEEE 802.11, the Wi-Fi standard, denotes a set of wireless LAN/WLAN standards developed by Working Group 11 of the IEEE LAN/MAN standards committee (IEEE 802). The term 802.11x is also used to denote this set of standards and is not to be mistaken for any one of its elements. There is no single 802.11x standard.
802.11 details a wireless interface between devices to manage packet traffic (to avoid collisions, etc.). Some common specifications and their distinctive attributes are listed below:
Operates in the 5 GHz frequency range (5.125 to 5.85 GHz) with a maximum 54 Mbps signaling rate. The 5 GHz frequency band isn’t as crowded as the 2.4 GHz frequency because it offers significantly more radio channels than the 802.11b and is used by fewer applications. It has a shorter range than 802.11g, is actually newer than 802.11b and is not compatible with 802.11b.
Operates in the 2.4 GHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band (2.4 to 2.4835 GHz) and provides signaling rates of up to 11 Mbps. This is a commonly used frequency. Microwave ovens, cordless phones, medical and scientific equipment, as well as Bluetooth devices, all work within the 2.4 GHz ISM band.
Ratified by the IEEE in late September 2005, the 802.11e quality-of-service specification is designed to guarantee the quality of voice and video traffic. It will be particularly important for companies interested in using Wi-Fi phones.
Similar to 802.11b, this standard supports signaling rates of up to 54 Mbps. It also operates in the heavily used 2.4 GHz ISM band but uses a different radio technology to boost overall throughput. Compatible with older 802.11b.
Also sometimes called Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA 2), 802.11i was ratified in June 2004. WPA 2 supports the 128-bit-and-above Advanced Encryption Standard, along with 802.1x authentication and key management features.
Passed in June 2008, the 802.11k Radio Resource Management Standard provides measurement information for access points and switches to make wireless LANs run more efficiently. For example, it better distributes traffic loads across access points and allows dynamic adjustments of transmission power to minimize interference.
Ratified in September 2009, 802.11n is a set of standards for wireless local area network (WLAN) communications, developed by the IEEE LAN/WAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802) in the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz public spectrum bands. The proposed amendment improves upon the previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and many other newer features.
For more helpful standards summaries, request a copy of Anixter's Standards Reference Guide.