If you have ever worked with wireless networking, you have probably seen standards. These are things that start with IEEE and the number “802,” and until you know more of the specifics, they seem like confusing serial numbers.
It turns out that these designations are identifying wireless network standards, and when you know about those standards, you can design your network around these key terms.
A Little Background on Wireless Standards
In order to talk about wireless standards, a brief history lesson is necessary. Before 1997, wireless networking manufacturers around the world were each doing things in their own ways. Devices were not universally compatible, and that made wireless networking more expensive and less reliable than necessary.
In response to the rising popularity of wireless combined with the difficulty in maintaining compatibility, the Institute of Electrical Electronics Engineers (IEEE) worked with major manufacturers to set up a universal standard for wireless equipment. This standard was formalized in 1997 and named 802.11.
It’s not the fanciest name, but it set in motion the chain of events that would lead to Wi-Fi as we know it today. In fact, the universal, standard “Wi-Fi” that you are likely using right now was derived from the original 802.11 standard.
Since this first standard, the IEEE has updated Wi-Fi standards every few years in order to keep up with major changes in wireless technology.
The Standards You Need to Know
With the history out of the way, we can breeze through the official Wi-Fi standards. Each is associated with a different generation of Wi-Fi. While all of these standards are reverse compatible (meaning you can use a modern device with an old router), the most common Wi-Fi networks today are either Wi-Fi 5 or 6.
Still, it’s worth taking the time to learn all of the standards, and you’ll see them listed below.
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