Why is 802.11 called 802.11?

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802 is the number given to a family of IEEE standards that specify Local Area Network (LAN) physical and data link layers. Physical layer standards define operation of the medium used to carry data - for example, an Ethernet cable or a radio channel. Data link layer standards define how bits are framed for transmission over that medium.

Each standard within the 802 family is given a part number:

  • IEEE 802.1 specifies management for all LANs
  • IEEE 802.3 specifies Ethernet LANs
  • IEEE 802.11 specifies Wireless LANs
  • IEEE 802.15 specifies Bluetooth PANs

    The 802.11 standard itself has a series of amendments:

  • 802.11 is the base standard for WLANs
  • 802.11a defines 5 GHz Band extensions
  • 802.11b defines 2.4 GHz Band extensions
  • 802.11g defines 2.4 GHz Band Higher Data Rate extensions

    The Wi-Fi Alliance tests products that comply with 802.11 standards; products that pass those tests receive the "Wi-Fi" brand.

    This was first published in May 2003

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