IEEE 802.11 Standards

When shopping for wireless devices, such as laptops, smartphones, routers, & hotspots, you’ve probably come across different variations of the term IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax. The technological alphabet soup represents different WiFi standards the wireless device is compatible with.

Unfortunately, understanding WiFi technology is extremely complex. How bởi vì you know which is the most recent, or best for your needs?

We have compiled a list of the most common IEEE 802.11 WiFi standards lớn help you understand what the differences are between each IEEE standard.

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What Does IEEE 802.11 Mean?

Similar to lớn how people follow etiquette and politeness rules khổng lồ communicate with others, wireless devices vì the same. They must follow a mix of wireless standards or protocols, known as IEEE 802.11, to lớn wirelessly communicate with other devices.

The WiFi standards were created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers và are certified by the WiFi Alliance.

The goal is lớn create a better wireless LAN experience for the users. Therefore, these standards dictate the data throughput, range, và the use of frequency bands to lớn achieve that goal.

WiFi Standard Naming Scheme

The names of the WiFi standards can be quite difficult lớn understand.

The WiFi Alliance came up with a new naming system to make it easier for vendors to indicate which standards their devices support, for service providers lớn explain what their network offers, and for users to lớn understand which products work with each standard.

Rather than seeing a string of numbers and letters, the new names will consist of the word “WiFi” followed by its generation. For example, 802.11ax technology, the 6th generation of WiFi, will now be referred to lớn as WiFi 6. It’s much easier to follow, especially for the average consumer.

In the meantime, it’s still important to be familiar with the traditional naming convention. There are many 802.11 standards that have not been given simpler names.

What are the Different 802.11 Standards?

802.11 standards are developed every couple of years to fill holes in the current one and to trương mục for the development of new wireless technology. New standards can be developed to lớn improve speeds, range, security, or establish new frequency bands when applicable.

The following các mục of WiFi standers consists of the most well-known standards in the market for wireless local area networks (WLAN).

IEEE 802.11 - 1997

In 1997, the first WLAN standard was released - IEEE 802.11.

It was developed khổng lồ operate on the 2.4 GHz ISM band & supported speeds of 1 Mbps - 2 Mbps. Compared lớn the speeds we have now, it would take longer to download files và cause challenges with group video clip calls, online gaming, và streaming.

The 802.11 standard became the “umbrella” for the standards that followed. Basically, it mix the foundation.

IEEE 802.11a (WiFi 2)

802.11a was one of the first standards issued under the 802.11 umbrella in 1999.

Rather than using the 2.4 GHz band, it opted into using the 5 GHz frequency band. Generally, higher frequencies are coupled with faster speeds but shorter range. To achieve better speeds, it was the first khổng lồ implement OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) công nghệ - a digital modulation method used khổng lồ encode data on multiple frequencies- into its coding scheme, allowing it lớn have a theoretical maximum tốc độ of 54 Mbps, which was a drastic improvement from the original WiFi standard.

In addition, since 802.11a operated under the 5 GHz band, it made the products more expensive. Therefore, it was mostly used in business networks.

IEEE 802.11b (WiFi 1)

While 802.11a was being developed, so was the 802.11b standard; it was also published in 1999.

802.11b uses DSSS (Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum) - a modulation method used to reduce signal interference - in the 2.4 GHz band, allowing it khổng lồ have speeds up lớn 11 Mbps. The 2.4 band does a good job at penetrating obstacles khổng lồ provide more WiFi coverage. Unfortunately, the data travels at a much slower rate, especially when it’s coupled with network interferences caused by devices operating on the same frequency, such as baby monitors, microwave ovens, cordless phones, appliances, and Bluetooth devices. Luckily, interferences can be mitigated by keeping your 802.11b devices away from the mentioned equipment.

Since WiFi 1 only used the 2.4 band, the products were much cheaper than 802.11a, making it more popular for home networks.

In addition, considering that 802.11b và 802.11a products don’t use the same frequency band, they are not compatible with each other. So, an 802.11b computer will not work with an 802.11a access point (AP) because the wireless adapter inside the computer will not register the AP, & vice versa.

IEEE 802.11g (WiFi 3)

To fulfill a growing demand for faster mạng internet under the 2.4 GHz band, 802.11g joined the 802.11 family in 2003.

The developers took the best qualities of 802.11a and 802.11b to lớn create the 802.11g standard. It supports a networking bandwidth up lớn 54 Mbps và operates under the 2.4 GHz band.

At the time backward compatibility was a must because many people still had access points and computers that used the previous standards. 802.11g is backward compatible with 802.11b products. However, WiFi products are only capable of tapping into the standard under which they operate. An 802.11b computer connected lớn an 802.11g AP can only go as fast as what the b standard allows. On the flip side, a g device connected lớn a b AP will only go as fast as what the AP offers.

IEEE 802.11n (Wireless-N or WiFi 4)

Wireless-N was developed in 2009 khổng lồ improve speeds, reliability, and extend the range of wireless transmissions.

It was the first standard lớn use MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) technology. MIMO products use a series of antennas to receive more data from one device at a time, which results in faster data transmissions. In addition, it was the first to lớn allow the usage of two radio frequencies – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The use of both frequencies makes the 802.11n standard compatible with 802.11a/b/g devices.

With all its improved functionalities, WiFi 4 supported bandwidth speeds up to lớn 600 Mbps và a had theoretical range of 230 ft indoors, which is a huge tăng cấp from the previous standards.

IEEE 802.11ac (Gigabit WiFi or WiFi 5)

The 5th generation of WiFi was established in 2013. Lớn reduce interference in the 2.4 GHz band, it was developed to lớn operate under the 5 GHz band.

Many 802.11ac WiFi devices are advertised as “dual-band” – technology that uses two frequency bands for wireless communication. Lớn make that possible, some vendors incorporated Wireless-N công nghệ to make ac products compatible with the 2.4 GHz band. Data rates differ based on which frequency is being used, bandwidth speeds up khổng lồ 1300 Mbps can be achieved on the 5 GHz band, while the 2.4 GHz band has a max tốc độ of 450 Mbps.

WiFi 5 was the first lớn use Downlink Multi-User MIMO. It took Wireless-N MIMO giải pháp công nghệ one step further to lớn increase data transmission even more. DL MU-MIMO allows wireless routers lớn transmit information khổng lồ multiple devices at the same time, improving bandwidth speeds & reducing latency.

With the help of Wireless-N technology, 802.11ac is compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n.

IEEE 802.11ad (WiGig)

Designed khổng lồ provide a Multiple Gigabit Wireless System (MGWS) with high throughput data, 802.11ad became part of the 802.11 series in 2012.

It achieved blazingly fast speeds - up to lớn 6.7 Gbps. Unlike the previous standards, it didn’t use the 2.4 or 5 GHz bands, it operated under the 60 GHz band. Remember, the higher the frequency, the shorter the range. Under perfect conditions, 802.11ad devices need to lớn be about 30 ft from the access point.

IEEE 802.11ah (WiFi HaLow)

Adopted in May 2017, 802.11ah aimed to use unlicensed frequency bands below 1 GHz. Its purpose was lớn establish lower energy consumption & create extended-range WLANs that surpassed that of the 2.4/5 GHz bands.

WiFi HaLow operated on the 900 MHz band, allowing it khổng lồ have a theoretical range of 543m indoors (1,781.5 ft) and data transfer speeds up to lớn 347 Mbps.

Due to its low energy needs, 802.11ah is beneficial for devices trying lớn communicate over long ranges without using a lot of energy.

IEEE 802.11ax (WiFi 6 or High-Efficiency WLAN)

As of 2019, the 802.11ax standard has become the newest WiFi standard. Designed to lớn deliver faster speeds, tư vấn more devices simultaneously, decrease latency, improve security, and increase bandwidth. To vày so, it includes technologies like OFDMA, MU-MIMO, 1024-QAM, and more. With all of its improvements, it has a theoretical maximum speed of 10 Gbps.

In addition, it operates on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, which hasn’t been done since 802.11n. This allows it to be compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac.

Come late 2020 or early 2021, WiFi 6 will have a subcategory known as WiFi 6E (WiFi 6 Extended). The FCC has made the 6 GHz frequency available for use. WiFi 6E devices will be able to lớn operate on the 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz frequencies. As a result, compatible WiFi devices will benefit from less congested frequency bands.

Which WiFi Standard Has the Furthest Range?

In terms of theoretical distance, 802.11ah would have the furthest range, but it’s not commonly used by the average consumer. Out of the most common WiFi networks, 802.11n công nghệ has the best range at 230 ft indoors.

However, advertised ranges are theoretical. The products have been tested in controlled environments for optimal performance. In the real world, range can be impacted by physical obstructions and wireless network interferences.

Luckily, you don’t have khổng lồ conform lớn the advertised range & struggle with dead spots or weak wireless signals. WiFi range extenders và mesh networks help extend your WiFi connection into those hard lớn reach spots & reduce the effect of obstructions. They can both wirelessly or physically (via ethernet cables) connect khổng lồ a WiFi router or modem khổng lồ expand the coverage.

How Many IEEE 802.11 Standards are There?

The IEEE working groups have developed over 1,100 standards, with over 600 standards under development. Out of those 1,100, over 40 are part of the 802.11 family.

The IEEE 802.11 chart below gives a small overview of many of the WiFi standards.

WiFi Standards Also Known As… Year Issued Description
802.11 N/A 1997 Original standard. Used the 2.4GHz frequency band, had a maximum bandwidth of 2 Mbps, & a range of 66 ft.
802.11a WiFi 2 1999 Under perfect conditions, it achieved speeds up khổng lồ 54 Mbps on the 5GHz band.
802.11b WiFi 1 or 802.11 High Rate 1999 Much cheaper khổng lồ develop because it used the 2.4GHz band, therefore it became more popular than 802.11a. Achieved speeds up to lớn 11 Mbps.
802.11c N/A 1998 Associated with bridging 802.11 wireless client device (is now part of the 802.1D amendment).
802.11d N/A 2001 Allows clients lớn automatically configure themselves lớn the specifications of its operating country (known as World-Wide Mode), making it easier for countries that are not part of a large domain.
802.11e N/A 2005 Offers quality of service (QoS) features to improve delay-sensitive applications, such as data, voice, and video.
802.11F N/A 2003 Provides communication between std 802.11 access points on the distribution system (Inter-Access Point Protocol).
802.11g WiFi 3 2003 Combined the best of 802.11a/b lớn achieved speeds up lớn 54 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.
802.11h N/A 2003 Originally designed for European regulations to lớn resolve interference issues with satellite & radars using the 5GHz band.
802.11i N/A 2004 Addressed vulnerabilities in WEP security and improved wireless encryption by replacing short authentication và privacy with detailed security for 802.11a/b/g networks.
802.11j N/A 2004 Designed for Japan, it provides specifications for the use of the 4.9GHz và 5 GHz bands for outdoor, indoor, và mobile applications.
802.11k N/A 2008 Improve traffic distribution within a WLAN.
802.11m 802.11 Housekeeping or 802.11 Cleanup 1999 Maintenance of the 802.11 series & related documentation.
802.11n WiFi 4 or Wireless-N 2009 Uses the 2.4GHz & 5GHz bands and improves speeds up lớn 600 Mbps.
802.11p N/A 2010 Adds wireless access in vehicular environments (WAVE).
802.11r Fast BSS (Basic Service Set) Transition or Fast Roaming 2008 Designed to lớn improve handoff speed between access points in a WLAN.
802.11s N/A 2011 Defines how wireless devices can connect to create a mesh network, which can be used for relatively fixed topologies và ad hoc connectivity networks.
802.11T N/A 2008 Wireless Performance Prediction (WPP)
802.11u N/A 2011 Improves internetworking with external networks.
802.11v N/A 2011 Wireless networking enhancements for the management and configuration of client devices.
802.11w N/A 2009 Increases management frame security.
802.11y N/A 2008 Supports operation in the 3650-3700 MHz bands in the USA.
802.11ac WiFi 5 2013 Supports 2.4GHz (through 802.11n tech) and 5GHz bands và has speeds up to lớn 1300 Mbps.
802.11ad WiGig 2012 Achieves extremely fast speeds (up lớn 6.7Gbps) on the 60GHz frequency.
802.11af White-Fi or Super WiFi 2014 Allows WLANs lớn operate in TV white space spectrum between 54 & 790 MHz.
802.11ah WiFi HaLow 2016 Uses frequency bands below 1GHz for lower energy consumption và extended range.
802.11ai N/A 2016 Establishes fast initial link cài đặt (FILS) methods.
802.11aj China Millimeter Wave 2018 Enabled operation in the Chinese Millimeter Wave frequency bands – 60GHz & 45GHz - by modifying 802.11ad"s physical và medium access control layers.
802.11ak N/A 2018 Enhance the ability of IEEE 802.11 truyền thông to provide transit link internal to lớn IEEE 802.1Q bridged networks.
802.11ax WiFi 6 2019 Delivers faster speeds, tư vấn more devices simultaneously, decrease latency, improve security, & increase bandwidth.
802.11ay Next Generation 60GHz Under Development Defines a new physical layer (PHY) for 802.11 networks to lớn operate in the 60GHz band & will be an extension khổng lồ 802.11ad lớn extend throughput và range.
802.11az N/A Under Development Define modifications to lớn the PHY và MAC layers.
802.11ba Wake Up Radio (WUR) Under Development Intends to extend the battery life of devices và sensors, especially those within the internet of Things (IoT) networks. .
802.11be WiFi 7 Under Development Will build on 802.11ax khổng lồ achieve extremely high throughput (EHT) & will use 2.4, 5, and 6GHz bands.

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