What Are the Different Types of Wireless ?
A common problem with both 802.11b and 802.11g equipment is that these devices often suffer from interference from other devices using the same 2.4GHz RF band, such as baby monitors, cordless phones and the like. If you experience this type of interference (characterized by dropped signals and slower-than-normal data transfer), consider upgrading to 802.11a equipment.
802.11a is an alternate WiFi standard that uses the less-crowded 5.0GHz RF band. This standard makes for reduced interference with other wireless devices, while still transferring data at 54 Mbps rates.
WiFi 802.11b was the first form of WiFi intended for general consumers. 802.11b equipment operates in the 2.4GHz RF band and transfers data at a rate of 11 megabits per second (Mbps).Several years after the introduction of the original 802.11b equipment, some manufacturers introduced equipment using what they called 802.11b+ technology. This equipment operated in the same 2.4GHz band but transferred data at twice the normal 802.11b rate. While you can still find some older 802.11b and 802.11b+ equipment in use, most manufacturers have since upgraded to the newer 802.11g standard.
WiFi 802.11g is a newer extension of the WiFi standard. Like the older 802.11b equipment, 802.11g equipment operates in the 2.4GHz band. This is a faster standard, however, transferring data at a rate of 54 Mbps.
Some manufacturers sell what they call Extreme G equipment. This equipment upgrades the standard 802.11g firmware to achieve data transfer rates of 108 Mbps -- twice the normal 802.11g rate. But Extreme G equipment from one manufacturer may be incompatible with similar equipment from a different manufacturer.
802.11n and Pre-n
The next generation of WiFi, 802.11n, is currently on the drawing boards, with official release expected sometime in 2007. While this standard has not yet been finalized, expect transfer rates of at least 200 Mbps, and possibly up to 600 Mbps. Transmission is in the 2.4GHz band, using smarter "multiple in, multiple out" (MIMO) antennas and an optional doubling of the frequency spectrum to provide not only faster data transfer rates, but also an extended transmission range.
Note that some manufacturers, such as Belkin and Linksys, are currently selling equipment that they call "pre-n" or "draft-n." This equipment does not adhere to the not-yet-finalized 802.11n standard, but rather extends the current 802.11g standard with MIMO and other n-type technology. Transfer rates are said to be at least twice as fast as existing 802.11g products, but eventual compatibility with true 802.11n products is not assured.
Which WiFi Is the Right WiFi for You?
If you have older WiFi networking equipment, chances are it's of the slower 802.11b variety, which has good but not great speed. When you shop for new equipment, you'll want to go with the newer, faster 80.211g standard -- or, if you can buy all your equipment from the same manufacturer, so-called Extreme G technology. All 802.11g equipment should be fully compatible with older equipment running the 802.11b standard.
If you experience interference with other wireless devices, consider moving to 802.11a equipment. These products are just as fast as 802.11g products but operate in the 5.0GHz band for reduced interference.
Once the 802.11n standard gets finalized, you'll definitely want to consider upgrading to this newer equipment. True 802.11n products should be at least four times as fast as current equipment and have a longer range.