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802.11 Learning Guide

802.11 is perhaps the fastest-changing network protocol around. We've gathered a wealth of information to get you up-to-speed quickly on the various specifications. Learn about all the 802.11 wireless LAN (WLAN) specifications in this learning guide.

802.11 - The alphabet

802.11 is perhaps the fastest-changing network protocol around. We've gathered a wealth of information to get you up-to-speed quickly on the various specifications.

802.11 Quick Start

The Alphabet

  • 802.11a - an extension to 802.11 that applies to wireless LANs and provides up to 54 Mbps in the 5 GHz band. 802.11a uses an orthogonal frequency division multiplexing encoding scheme rather than FHSS or DSSS.
  • 802.11b - (also referred to as 802.11 High Rate or Wi-Fi) -- an extension to 802.11 that applies to wireless LANS and provides 11 Mbps transmission in the 2.4 GHz band. 802.11b was a 1999 ratification to the original 802.11 standard, allowing wireless functionality comparable to Ethernet.
  • 802.11d - a wireless network communications specification for use in countries where systems using other standards in the 802.11 family are not allowed to operate.
  • 802.11e - a proposed enhancement to the 802.11a and 802.11b wireless LAN (WLAN) specifications. It offers quality of service (QoS) features, including the prioritization of data, voice, and video transmissions.
  • 802.11g - offers transmission over relatively short distances at up to 54 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with the 11 Mbps theoretical maximum with the earlier 802.11b standard.
  • 802.11h - intended to resolve interference issues introduced by the use of 802.11a in some locations, particularly with military radar systems and medical devices.
  • 802.11i - an enhancement to 802.11 that offers additional security for WLAN applications
  • 802.11j - Japanese regulatory extensions to 802.11a specification.
  • 802.11k - a proposed standard for how a wireless local area network (WLAN) should perform channel selection, Roaming, and transmit power control (TPC) in order to optimize network performance.
  • 802.11m - an initiative to perform editorial maintenance, corrections, improvements, clarifications, and interpretations relevant to documentation for 802.11 family specifications.

Chapter Downloads

  • 802.11 (Wi-Fi) Networking Handbook - Chapter 9 - covers the essentials of wireless LANs, including benefits and risks; the major threats to a wireless network; and the breadth and scope of possible attacks and exploits that are available to hackers.
  • 802.11 Security: Attacks and risks - this chapter advocates that the more you know about the risks involved in your network the better your chances are of protecting yourself, your assets, and your users.

Choosing Standards

Upcoming Standards

What about security?

Enterprise role models - Who's really using 802.11?

  • English water company patches leaks in wireless system (Case study)
  • College expects wireless LAN to be big man on campus (Article)

802.11 Tutorials

Articles and White Papers

  • Wireless standards overview (Article)
  • Withstanding 802.11g Forces (Article)
  • 802.11g wireless standard upstaging 802.11a (Article)
  • Not many making the LEAP to PEAP (Article)
  • 802.11g not yet ratified, but early reports look promising (Article)
  • Wi-Fi Alliance sets 802.11g testing schedule (Article)

Descriptive Q & As

  • What is the capacity of each 802.11b channel
  • Is the distance covered by the G standard the same as B?
  • Latest advances to 802.11
  • Got questions? Pose your own question in our Ask the Expert feature


This was last published in January 2006

Dig Deeper on Wireless LAN (WLAN)