IEEE 802.11 is a set of standards carrying out wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4, 3.6 and 5 GHz frequency bands. They are implemented by the IEEE LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802).
802.11b has a maximum raw data rate of 11 Mbit/s and uses the same media access method defined in the original standard. 802.11b products appeared on the market in early 2000, since 802.11b is a direct extension of the modulation technique defined in the original standard. The dramatic increase in throughput of 802.11b (compared to the original standard) along with simultaneous substantial price reductions led to the rapid acceptance of 802.11b as the definitive wireless LAN technology.
802.11b devices suffer interference from other products operating in the 2.4 GHz band. Devices operating in the 2.4 GHz range include: microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, baby monitors and cordless telephones.
In June 2003, a third modulation standard was ratified: 802.11g. This works in the 2.4 GHz band (like 802.11b), but uses the same OFDM based transmission scheme as 802.11a. It operates at a maximum physical layer bit rate of 54 Mbit/s exclusive of forward error correction codes, or about 22 Mbit/s average throughput. 802.11g hardware is fully backwards compatible with 802.11b hardware and therefore is encumbered with legacy issues that reduce throughput when compared to 802.11a by ~21%.
The then-proposed 802.11g standard was rapidly adopted by consumers starting in January 2003, well before ratification, due to the desire for higher data rates, and reductions in manufacturing costs. By summer 2003, most dual-band 802.11a/b products became dual-band/tri-mode, supporting a and b/g in a single mobile adapter card or access point. Details of making b and g work well together occupied much of the lingering technical process; in an 802.11g network, however, activity of an 802.11b participant will reduce the data rate of the overall 802.11g network.
Like 802.11b, 802.11g devices suffer interference from other products operating in the 2.4 GHz band.
In 2003, task group TGma was authorized to "roll up" many of the amendments to the 1999 version of the 802.11 standard. REVma or 802.11ma, as it was called, created a single document that merged 8 amendments (802.11a,b,d,e,g,h,i,j) with the base standard. Upon approval on March 08, 2007, 802.11REVma was renamed to the current base standard IEEE 802.11-2007.
802.11n is a proposed amendment which improves upon the previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and many other newer features. The TGn workgroup is not expected to finalize the amendment until December 2009. Enterprises, however, have already begun migrating to 802.11n networks based on Draft 2 of the 802.11n proposal. A common strategy for many businesses is to set up 802.11b and 802.11g client devices while gradually moving to 802.11n clients as part of new equipment purchases.