Explore Wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) Technologies - dummies

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

Part of Wireless Home Networking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Most people just refer to their wireless LAN as Wi-Fi. Which is good — we like simple names that everyone knows. But Wi-Fi actually covers a range of technologies, all part of the IEEE 802.11 family of standards, and each of these technologies differs in both its capabilities and its compatibility with other Wi-Fi gear. This table provides a quick, at-a-glance view of the four main 802.11 Wi-Fi variants, what frequencies they use, how fast they are, and how they work with other versions of 802.11.

Wireless LAN Technology Frequency Maximum Speed Compatibility Availability
802.11b 2.4 GHz 11 Mbps 802.11g Obsolete, still supported in network adapters
802.11a 5 GHz 54 Mbps 802.11n (where 5 GHz is supported, at 54 Mbps) Obsolete, still supported in network adapters
802.11g 2.4GHz 54 Mbps 802.11b (at 11 Mbps) Now
802.11n 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz (not all support 5 GHz) 300 Mbps 802.11g (at 54 Mbps); 802.11b (at 11 Mbps); 802.11a (at 54 Mbps
where 5 GHz is supported)