The University of Arizona

802.11 a/b/g

In 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the first WLAN standard. They called it 802.11 after the name of the group formed to oversee its development.

The University of Arizona WiFi network uses all three of these standards to maintain maximum compatibility with network cards that are produced today.
 
 
802.11b
 
802.11b uses the same unregulated radio signaling frequency (2.4 GHz) as the original 802.11 standard. Being unregulated, 802.11b gear can incur interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other appliances using the same 2.4 GHz range. However, by installing 802.11b gear a reasonable distance from other appliances, interference can easily be avoided.
 
Pros of 802.11b - lowest cost; signal range is good and not easily obstructed
 
Cons of 802.11b - slowest maximum speed; home appliances may interfere on the unregulated frequency band
 
802.11a
 
While 802.11b was in development, IEEE created a second extension to the original 802.11 standard called 802.11a. Because 802.11b gained in popularity much faster than did 802.11a, some folks believe that 802.11a was created after 802.11b. In fact, 802.11a was created at the same time. Due to its higher cost, 802.11a is usually found on business networks whereas 802.11b better serves the home market.
 
802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and signals in a regulated frequency spectrum around 5 GHz. This higher frequency compared to 802.11b shortens the range of 802.11a networks. The higher frequency also means 802.11a signals have more difficulty penetrating walls and other obstructions.
 
Because 802.11a and 802.11b utilize different frequencies, the two technologies are incompatible with each other. Some vendors offer hybrid 802.11a/b network gear, but these products merely implement the two standards side by side (each connected devices must use one or the other).
 
Pros of 802.11a - fast maximum speed; regulated frequencies prevent signal interference from other devices
 
Cons of 802.11a - highest cost; shorter range signal that is more easily obstructed
 
802.11g
 
In 2002 and 2003, WLAN products supporting a newer standard called 802.11g emerged on the market. 802.11g attempts to combine the best of both 802.11a and 802.11b. 802.11g supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps, and it uses the 2.4 Ghz frequency for greater range. 802.11g is backwards compatible with 802.11b, meaning that 802.11g access points will work with 802.11b wireless network adapters and vice versa.
 
Pros of 802.11g - fast maximum speed; signal range is good and not easily obstructed
 
Cons of 802.11g - costs more than 802.11b; appliances may interfere on the unregulated signal frequency