Glossary Definition for: 802.11

The IEEE 802.11 set of technical standard is the formal name for the technology commonly referred to as Wi-Fi.

The 802.11 standard comes in an alphabet soup of flavors now - so check your gear specifications to see what you are compatible with:

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  • 802.11b – The first widespread Wi-Fi standard. 2.4GHz, 11Mbps max.
  • 802.11g – Faster. 2.4GHz, 54Mbps max.
  • 802.11a – Operates exclusively on 5GHz, 54Mbps max.
  • 802.11n (aka "Wi-Fi 4") – Operates on 2.4GHz and optionally on 5GHz. By combining multiple MIMO antennas, speeds up to 600Mbps are possible.
  • 802.11ac (aka "Wi-Fi 5")  – Operates on 5GHz and delivers blazing fast speeds over 1 Gbps over short distances, such as around a house.
  • 802.11ax  (aka "Wi-Fi 6") – The next generation of Wi-Fi, with the standard set to be finalized in 2019. One key goal of 802.11ax is substantially improving performance even when the wireless network is heavily congested.

There are also two relatively rare special purpose Wi-Fi standards, one focused on short range and high speeds, and the other focused on longer range and slow speeds:

  • 802.11ad – Also known as WiGig, intended to provide extremely high multi-Gbps speeds using high frequency 60GHz spectrum, with range limited to a single room.
  • 802.11ah – “HaLow” is the friendly name for the variant of Wi-Fi that uses 900MHz spectrum to double range, but HaLow is NOT intended for speed.
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