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802.11g Wireless Internet Access

IEEE 802.11, commonly known by the brand Wi-Fi, denotes a set of Wireless LAN standards developed by working group 11 of the IEEE LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802). The term 802.11x is also used to denote the set of amendments to the standard. The term IEEE 802.11 is also used to refer to the original 802.11 (1997), which is now sometimes called "802.11 legacy". For the application of these standards see Wi-Fi.

A Linksys Residential gateway with a 802.11b radio and a 4-port ethernet switch. A Compaq 802.11b PCI cardThe 802.11 family currently includes multiple over-the-air modulation techniques that all use the same basic protocol. The most popular techniques are those defined by the b/g and are amendments to the original standard; security was originally purposefully weak due to multi-governmental meddling on export requirements and was later enhanced via the 802.11i amendment after governmental and legislative changes. 802.11n is a new multi-streaming modulation technique that has recently been developed; the standard is still under draft development, although products designed based on proprietary pre-draft versions of the standard are being sold. Other standards in the family (c–f, h, j) are service amendments and extensions or corrections to previous specifications. 802.11b was the first widely accepted wireless networking standard, followed by 802.11g and then 802.11n.

802.11b and 802.11g standards use the 2.4 GHz (gigahertz) band, operating (in the United States) under Part 15 of the FCC Rules and Regulations. Because of this choice of frequency band, 802.11b and 802.11g equipment will suffer interference from microwave ovens, cordless telephones, Bluetooth devices, baby and security monitors, amateur radio and other appliances using this same band. The 802.11a standard uses a different 5 GHz band, which is clean by comparison. 802.11a devices are not affected by products operating on the 2.4 GHz band.

The segment of the radio frequency spectrum used varies between countries. While it is true that in the U.S. 802.11a and g devices may be legally operated without a licence. Unlicensed (legal) operation of 802.11 a & g is covered under Part 15 of the FCC Rules and Regulations. Frequencies used by channels one (1) through six (6) (802.11b) fall within the range of the 2.4 gigahertz amateur radio band. Licensed amateur radio operators may operate 802.11b/g devices under Part 97 of the FCC Rules and Regulations, allowing increased power output but not allowing any commercial content or encryption.[1]

802.11 Wi-Fi Legacy

The original version of the standard IEEE 802.11 released in 1997 specifies two raw data rates of 1 and 2 megabits per second (Mbit/s) to be transmitted via infrared (IR) signals or by either Frequency hopping or Direct-sequence spread spectrum in the Industrial Scientific Medical frequency band at 2.4 GHz. IR remains a part of the standard but has no actual implementations.

The original standard also defines Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) as the medium access method. A significant percentage of the available raw channel capacity is sacrificed (via the CSMA/CA mechanisms) in order to improve the reliability of data transmissions under diverse and adverse environmental conditions.

At least six different, somewhat-interoperable, commercial products appeared using the original specification, from companies like Alvarion (PRO.11 and BreezeAccess-II), BreezeCom, Digital / Cabletron (RoamAbout) , Lucent, Netwave Technologies (AirSurfer Plus and AirSurfer Pro), Symbol Technologies (Spectrum24), and Proxim (OpenAir). A weakness of this original specification was that it offered so many choices that interoperability was sometimes challenging to realize. It is really more of a "beta-specification" than a rigid specification, initially allowing individual product vendors the flexibility to differentiate their products but with little to no inter-vendor operability. Legacy 802.11 was rapidly supplemented (and popularized) by 802.11b. Widespread adoption of 802.11 networks only occurred after 802.11b was ratified and multiple product became available from multiple vendors and as a result few networks ran on the 802.11-1997 standard.

802.11a Wi-Fi

The 802.11a amendment to the original standard was ratified in 1999. The 802.11a standard uses the same core protocol as the original standard, operates in 5 GHz band, and uses a 52-subcarrier orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) with a maximum raw data rate of 54 Mbit/s, which yields realistic net achievable throughput in the mid-20 Mbit/s. The data rate is reduced to 48, 36, 24, 18, 12, 9 then 6 Mbit/s if required. 802.11a originally had 12/13 non-overlapping channels, 12 that can be used indoor and 4/5 of the 12 that can be used in outdoor point to point configurations. Recently many countries of the world are allowing operation in the 5.47 to 5.725 GHz Band as a secondary user using a sharing method derived in 802.11h. This will add another 12/13 Channels to the overall 5 GHz band enabling significant overall wireless capacity enabling the possibilty of 24+ channels in some countries. 802.11a is not interoperable with 802.11b as they operate on separate bands, except if using equipment that has a dual band capability. Nearly all enterprise class Access Points have dual band capability.

Since the 2.4 GHz band is heavily used, using the 5 GHz band gives 802.11a a significant advantage. However, this high carrier frequency also brings a slight disadvantage. The effective overall range of 802.11a is slightly less then 802.11b/g, it also means that 802.11a cannot penetrate as far as 802.11b since it is absorbed more readily when penetrating walls, or any other solid object. On the other hand, OFDM has fundamental propagation advantages when in a high multipath environment such as an indoor office. And the higher frequencies enable the building of smaller antennae with higher RF system gain which counteract the disadvantage of a higher band of operation. The increased number of usable channels (4 to 8 times as many in FCC countries) and the near absence of other interfering systems (microwave ovens, cordless phones, bluetooth products, baby monitors) makes the 5 GHz band the preferred WLAN band for professionals and businesses who require more capacity and reliability and are willing to pay a small premium for it.

Different countries have different regulatory support, although a 2003 World Radiotelecommunications Conference made it easier for use worldwide. 802.11a is now approved by regulations in the United States and Japan, but in other areas, such as the European Union, it had to wait longer for approval. European regulators were considering the use of the European HIPERLAN standard, but in mid-2002 cleared 802.11a for use in Europe. In the U.S., a mid-2003 FCC decision may open more spectrum to 802.11a channels.

Of the 52 OFDM subcarriers, 48 are for data and 4 are pilot subcarriers with a carrier separation of 0.3125 MHz (20 MHz/64). Each of these subcarriers can be a BPSK, QPSK, 16-QAM or 64-QAM. The total bandwidth is 20 MHz with an occupied bandwidth of 16.6 MHz. Symbol duration is 4 microseconds with a guard interval of 0.8 microseconds. The actual generation and decoding of orthogonal components is done in baseband using DSP which is then upconverted to 5 GHz at the transmitter. Each of the subcarriers could be represented as a complex number. The time domain signal is generated by taking an Inverse Fast Fourier transform (IFFT). Correspondingly the receiver downconverts, samples at 20 MHz and does an FFT to retrieve the original coefficients. The advantages of using OFDM include reduced multipath effects in reception and increased spectral efficiency.

802.11a products started shipping in late 2001, lagging 802.11b products due to the slow availability of the harder to manufacture 5 GHz components needed to implement products. 802.11a has not been widely adopted in the consumer market primarily because the less-expensive 802.11b was already widely adopted along with the arrival of less expensive early 802.11g product on the market, also some poor initial product implementations further limited its success. Manufacturers of 802.11a equipment responded to the lack of market success by significantly improving the implementations (current-generation 802.11a technology has range characteristics nearly identical to those of 802.11b), and by making technology that can use more than one band and 802.11 standard. There are dual-band, or dual-mode Access Points and NIC cards that can automatically handle 802.11a and b, or a and b/g, as available. Similarly, there are mobile adapters and access points which can support all these standards.

802.11b Wi-Fi

The 802.11b amendment to the original standard was ratified in 1999. 802.11b has a maximum raw data rate of 11 Mbit/s and uses the same CSMA/CA media access method defined in the original standard. Due to the CSMA/CA protocol overhead, in practice the maximum 802.11b throughput that an application can achieve is about 5.9 Mbit/s using TCP and 7.1 Mbit/s using UDP.

802.11b products appeared on the market in early 2000, since 802.11b is a direct extension of the DSSS (Direct-sequence spread spectrum) modulation technique defined in the original standard. Technically, the 802.11b standard uses Complementary code keying (CCK) as its modulation technique. 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 is normally used in a point-to-multipoint configuration, wherein an access point communicates via an omni-directional antenna with one or more clients that are located in a coverage area around the access point. Typical indoor range is 30 m (100 ft) at 11 Mbit/s and 90 m (300 ft) at 1 Mbit/s. The overall bandwidth is dynamically shared across all the users on a channel. With high-gain external antennas, the protocol can also be used in fixed point-to-point arrangements, typically at ranges up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) although some report success at ranges up to 80–120 km (50–75 miles) where line of sight can be established. This is usually done in place of costly leased lines or very cumbersome microwave communications equipment. Designers of such installations who wish to remain within the law must however be careful about legal limitations on effective radiated power.

802.11b cards can operate at 11 Mbit/s, but will scale back to 5.5, then 2, then 1 Mbit/s (also known as Adaptive Rate Selection), if signal quality becomes an issue. Since the lower data rates use less complex and more redundant methods of encoding the data, they are less susceptible to corruption due to interference and signal attenuation. Many companies created proprietary extensions and called them enhanced versions "802.11b+". These extensions have been largely obviated by the development of 802.11g, which has data rates up to 54 Mbit/s and is backwards-compatible with 802.11b.

802.11g Wi-Fi

In June 2003, a third modulation standard was ratified: 802.11g. This flavor works in the 2.4 GHz band (like 802.11b) but operates at a maximum raw data rate of 54 Mbit/s, or about 19 Mbit/s net throughput (like 802.11a except with some additional legacy overhead). 802.11g hardware is backwards compatible with 802.11b hardware. Details of making b and g work well together occupied much of the lingering technical process. In an 11g network, however, the presence of an 802.11b participant does significantly reduce the speed of the overall 802.11g network.

The modulation scheme used in 802.11g is orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) for the data rates of 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 54 Mbit/s, and reverts to CCK (like the 802.11b standard) for 5.5 and 11 Mbit/s and DBPSK/DQPSK+DSSS for 1 and 2 Mbit/s. Even though 802.11g operates in the same frequency band as 802.11b, it can achieve higher data rates because of its similarities to 802.11a. The maximum range of 802.11g devices is slightly greater than that of 802.11b devices, but the range in which a client can achieve the full 54 Mbit/s data rate is much shorter than that of which a 802.11b client can reach 11 Mbit/s.

The 802.11g standard swept the consumer world of early adopters starting in January 2003, well before ratification due to fierce competition along with dramatic reductions in manufacturing costs. Corporate users held back - Cisco and other big equipment makers waited until ratification. By summer 2003, announcements were flourishing. Most of the 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.

Despite its major acceptance, 802.11g suffers from the same interference as 802.11b in the already crowded 2.4 GHz range. Devices operating in this range include microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, baby monitors and cordless telephones. Interference issues, and related problems within the 2.4 GHz band have become a major concern and frustration for users. Additionally the success of the standard has caused usage problems related to crowding in urban areas. This crowding can cause a dissatified user experience as the number of non-overlapping usable channels is only 3 in FCC nations (ch 1, 6, 11)or 4 in European nations (ch 1, 5, 9, 13). Also, the 802.11/11g MAC protocol doesn't share efficiently with more then a few users per channel.

This information provided by the Wikipedia Free 802.11g Encyclopedia.

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