Wi-Fi standards every engineer should know about

In just 19 years (starting in September 1998), Wi-Fi has evolved from an inactive technology to one that’s robust and versatile. It now also plays an integral role in the lives of hundreds of millions of people, it is being improved almost constantly.But will these changes bring about the two most important things consumers and companies are looking for: range and speed?

Three recently-adopted Wi-Fi standards that have been created to reach these goals:

  1. 802.11ad (AD)—2012: created for multigigabit speeds (sans wires) and high-performance networking.
  2. 802.11af (AF)—2014: created for applications similar to HaLow. (This network option relies on unused TV spectrums instead of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands for transmission.)
  3. 802.11ah (HaLow)—2016: created for low data rate, long-range sensors and controllers.

The Institute of Electronics and Electronics Engineers is a professional association that acts as an authority for electronic communication. The IEEE creates standards and protocols for communication in industries like telecommunications and information technology, says Mayank Singh, IoT instructor at Eckovation.

Each standard the IEEE ratifies is designated by a unique number; 802 is the prefix used for any protocol or amendment that entails area networking. For instance, standards for ethernet local area networks (LANs); are designated by 802.3, and Bluetooth personal area networks (PANs) are designated by 802.15; Wireless LANs—the subject of this article—are designated by 802.11.

Here are a few Wi-Fi standards

802.11a (1990): “Wi-Fi A” — also known as the OFDM (Orthogonal, Frequency Division Multiplexing) waveform — was the first amendment, coming two years after the standard was complete. This amendment defined 5 gigahertz band extensions, which made Wi-Fi A more flexible (since the 2.4 GHz space was crowded with wireless home telephones, baby monitors, microwaves and more).

802.11b (2000): As one of the first widely used protocols, “Wi-Fi B”; had an improved range and transfer rate over 802.11a; but it is very slow by today’s standards (maxing out at 11 mbps). 802.11b defined 2.4 GHz band extensions. This protocol is still supported (80% of Wi-Fi runs off 2.4 GHz),; but the technology isn’t manufactured anymore because it’s been replaced by faster options.

802.11g (2003): “Wi-Fi G” came onto the market three years after b,; offering roughly five times the transfer rate, at 54 mbps. It defined 2.4 GHz band extensions at a higher data rate. Its primary benefit was greater speed, which was important to consumers. Today, however, these speeds are not fast enough to keep up with the average number of Wi-Fi;-enabled devices in a household or a strong wireless draw from a number of devices.

FeatureWi-Fi 802.11bWi-Fi 802.11a/g
Primary ApplicationWireless LANWireless LAN
Frequency Band2.4 GHz ISM2.4 GHz ISM gg
5 GHz U-NII aa
Channel Bandwidth25 MHz20 MHz
Half/Full DuplexHalfHalf
Radio TechnologyDirect SequenceOFDM
Spread Spectrum64-channels64-channels
Bandwidth<=0.44 bps/Hz≤=2.7 bps/Hz
ModulationQPSKBPSK, QPSK, 16-, 64-QAM
FECNoneConvolutional Code
EncryptionOptional- RC4m AESin802.11iAESin802.11iOptional- RC4AESin802.11iAESin802.11i
MobilityIn developmentIn development
MeshVendor ProprietaryVendor Proprietary
Access ProtocolCSMA/CACSMA/CA

802.11n (2007): “Wi-Fi N” offered another drastic improvement in transfer rate speed — 300-450 mbps, depending on the number of antennas — and range. This was the first main protocol that operated on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. These transfer rates allowed large amounts of data to be transmitted more quickly than ever before.

Mayank Singh

Some new standards

802.11ac (2013): In 2013, “Wi-Fi AC” was introduced. AC was the first step in what is considered “Gigabit Wi-Fi,” meaning it offers speeds of nearly 1 gbps, which is equivalent to 8000 mbps. That’s roughly 20 times more powerful than 802.11n, making this an important and widely-used protocol.

AC runs on a 5 GHz band, which is noteworthy — because it’s less widely used, also you’ll have an advantage as far as speed is concerned, though the higher frequency and; higher modulation rate mean the range is more limited. These amendments were made in 2016 to AC to improve its performance.

Choose the Wi-Fi standards as per your requirements and create new projects.

For more information about IoT click here

The author of this blog is Mayank Singh, IoT instructor at Eckovation

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow OR @jcIoTnow


9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, iot home automation is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

A good connection is not just for Christmas

Posted on: November 25, 2021

Peak season trading this year is set to be more difficult than ever for retailers. Unprecedented supply chain disruption is threatening to decimate stock levels. Post-COVID customer behaviour is unpredictable with some customers relying ever more heavily on ecommerce; others heading to the high street to get ahead on Christmas buying in response to fears

Read more

stc announces partnership with Sensoneo to drive smart waste management

Posted on: November 25, 2021

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 24 November 2021 – stc, the ICT specialist driving digital transformation in the Middle East and North Africa, has announced a partnership with Sensoneo to provide customers in Saudi Arabia with the most reliable and easy-to-deploy smart waste management technology. Sensoneo is a provider of enterprise-grade smart waste management solutions.

Read more