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Evolution of WLAN technology improves data rates, security

WLAN technology has evolved dramatically -- most notably, in terms of network speeds and security. Innovations in Wi-Fi 6 show that the WLAN evolution isn't slowing, either.

Over the past 20 years, wireless LANs, or WLANs, have evolved in tandem with the internet: at a rapid, widespread pace with no sign of slowing down.

Data rates, modulation and security are among the most significant changes in the evolution of WLANs. In particular, Wi-Fi -- a form of WLAN technology -- is in its sixth generation, Wi-Fi 6, which also promises more innovations in network speeds and security. However, WLAN fundamentals are still crucial to know, according to author Alan Bensky. In the third edition of his book Short-range Wireless Communication, Bensky explores the fundamentals of WLANs and other wireless communication technologies.

Below is an excerpt from the book: Chapter 11, "Wireless local area networks." This chapter lays out everything readers need to know about WLANs, including WLAN architecture, physical layer details and location services. Bensky also notes how the evolution of WLAN technology has progressed since the advent of wireless communications.

Noteworthy changes for WLANs include the following:

  • Data rates. Data rates have increased significantly over 20 years because of multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology, Bensky said. MIMO uses multiple antennas on either one end or on both ends of a circuit, which increases signal range and provides higher network reliability. Wi-Fi 6 uses multiuser MIMO; standard MIMO can transmit data to only one device at a time, while MU-MIMO transmits data to multiple devices
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  • Modulation. Enhancements in modulation stem from orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), Bensky said. OFDM is a modulation technique that separates data onto multiple carrier frequencies to reduce interference. Wi-Fi 6 uses orthogonal frequency-division multiple access, which takes OFDM capabilities to a new level and, like MU-MIMO, aids multiple devices simultaneously.
Alan BenskyAlan Bensky
  • Security. WLANs are more widespread than ever before, which requires enhanced security, Bensky said. To secure modern networks, the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wired Equivalent Privacy standards have advanced as well throughout the evolution of WLANs. Notably, WPA3 aims to improve encryption and authentication capabilities for Wi-Fi 6.

Overall, the changes in data rates, modulation and security have made, and continue to make, substantial changes for WLAN and Wi-Fi networks, Bensky said. In the future, the continued evolution of WLAN technology will likely see steady progress in data speeds and security as well.

Explore Short-range Wireless Communication

Click here to read Chapter 11, "Wireless local area networks."

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This was last published in July 2020

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