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Last modified: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 

802.11 refers to a family of specifications developed by the IEEE for wireless LAN technology. 802.11 specifies an over-the-air interface between a wireless client and a base station or between two wireless clients. The IEEE accepted the specification in 1997.

There are several specifications in the 802.11 family:

  • 802.11 -- applies to wireless LANs and provides 1 or 2 Mbps transmission in the 2.4 GHz band using either frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) or direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS).
  • 802.11a -- an extension to 802.11 that applies to wireless LANs and provides up to 54 Mbps in the 5GHz 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 (with a fallback to 5.5, 2 and 1 Mbps) in the 2.4 GHz band. 802.11b uses only DSSS. 802.11b was a 1999 ratification to the original 802.11 standard, allowing wireless functionality comparable to Ethernet.
  • 802.11g -- applies to wireless LANs and provides 20+ Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band.

Also see the Wireless LAN Standards chart in the Quick Reference section of Webopedia.

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For pages about 802.11 . Also check out the following links!

Related Links

802.11a: An Excellent Long Term Solution 
Since the debut of 802.11a products in 2001, network managers have been struggling with whether to install 802.11b or 802.11a. Here's why you should strongly consider the use of 802.11a for your next wireless LAN deployment.

Minimizing 802.11 Interference Issues 
RF interference will continue to plague current and future 802.11b implementations unless an adequate site survey is conducted - preferably prior to actual network installation.

Minimizing WLAN Security Threats 
Most wireless LANs do not invoke adequate security measures to guard against attacks. Learn what security threats exist for wireless LANs as the basis for deploying effective security measures.

The BIG Question: 802.11a or 802.11b? 
Both 802.11b and 802.11a have distinct merits and appropriate applications. A WLAN expert shows how to make the best decision for particular needs.

Wi-Fi Planet 
802.11 news, commentary and information. 
Search this directory for Wi-Fi hotspots in your region.

Wireless Networking Q & A 
This article from Vicomsoft explains in detail the basics of wireless networking.

802.11 Alphabet Soup
What do all those letters mean?

802.11a: Making Space for Speed
With so much talk about 802.11b, what about 802.11a?

A Short Tutorial on Wireless LANs and IEEE 802.11
This article will try to answer some basic questions of why and where wireless local area networks can be used, and present a brief description of some protocols that have been developed, with emphasis on IEEE 802.11.

IEEE Unable to Agree on 802.11g Standards article from May 2001.

Improving WLAN Performance with Fragmentation
Learn how the optional fragmentation function of 802.11 operates, and understand when and how to use it.
A resource center for IEEE 802.11.

Sizing Up Your WLAN
This tutorial tells you what you need to know about what you need to have - in terms of APs - for your WLAN to actually work.

Tools Simplify 802.11 Deployments
Wireless LAN installation is tricky. The construction of a facility and silent sources of RF interference impact the propagation of radio waves, often in odd ways.

Wi-Fi Alliance
A resource page for Wi-Fi technology.

Wireless - FAQ
Northwestern University Information Technology's wireless network frequently asked questions. Provides information on Macintosh and Windows.

Wireless Privacy: An Oxymoron?
ISPs deploying 802.11b for public broadband or fixed wireless Internet access should consider the risks associated with this emerging technology before network security is compromised.

related categories

Communications Standards

Wireless Computing

related terms


ad-hoc mode










infrastructure mode


Mobile IP







Shared Wireless Access Protocol





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