Wireless Networking Protocols for Linux

By Emmett Dulaney

As a Linux user or administrator, you’ll probably work in a wireless network environment where you’ll see at least one of these five common wireless networking protocols in action.


The 802.11 standard defines wireless LANs transmitting at 1Mbps or 2Mbps bandwidths using the 2.4GHz frequency spectrum and using either frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) or direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) for data encoding.


The 802.11a standard provides wireless LAN bandwidth of up to 54Mbps in the 5GHz frequency spectrum. The 802.11a standard also uses orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) for encoding rather than FHSS or DSSS.


The 802.11b standard provides for bandwidths of up to 11Mbps (with fallback rates of 5.5, 2, and 1Mbps) in the 2.4GHz frequency spectrum. This standard is also called Wi-Fi or 802.11 high rate. The 802.11b standard uses only DSSS for data encoding.


The 802.11g standard provides for bandwidths of up to 54Mbps in the 2.4GHz frequency spectrum. While able to obtain faster speeds, it also suffers from the same interference problems inherent with 802.11b—having to share the spectrum with other devices using that frequency.


The 802.11n standard provides for bandwidths of up to 300Mbps in the 5GHz frequency spectrum (it can also communicate at 2.4GHz for compatibility). The advantage of this standard is that it offers higher speed and a frequency that does not have as much interference.