Upgrading Wi-Fi: What, When, and Why

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Sci/Tech

Wi-Fi (802.11x) networks have been around long enough that many businesses and home users run their own. The first widely deployed standard was 802.11b, while most new hardware uses 802.11g. The latest 802.11n hardware is just around the corner. If you run an existing wireless network, is it time to upgrade?

The spirit of radio

The IEEE 802.11x networks use radio signals to move packets. Both 802.11b and 802.11g use the 2.4 Megahertz frequency, also used by wireless phones and other appliances. The main difference between the two is the data rate: 11 Megabits per second for 802.11b and 54 Megabits per second for 802.11g. Real world throughput is about half the data rate.

Some vendors released 802.11a hardware but it was not a commercial success. The 802.11a standard runs at 5 Megahertz, but has the same 54 Mb data rate as 802.11g.

The b, g, and a standards all have an indoor range of 30 meters.

The new buzz is around 802.11n.

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