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Chapter 20. Mobile and Wireless Systems > Wireless LAN Technology

Wireless LAN Technology

You can usually tell when someone is trying to push a technology into the mainstream—in this case, the consumer market: it gets a catchy name. The new name is Wi-Fi, but most people still call it by the name the engineers gave it: 802.11b, the number of the IEEE standard for wireless data networking (sometimes called wireless LANs). 802.11b is actually one of a family of wireless networking specifications under the 802.11 umbrella. Some related standards are summarized in Table 20-1.

Perhaps the most dramatic development for 802.11b has been the steep decline in prices since products became widely available in 1999. Wireless LAN hardware has been available from several vendors for a few years now, but it wasn't very common for three reasons: it cost too much, it didn't interoperate, and it was too slow. Of course, these reasons are related—one role of standards is to stimulate competition and, hence, lower prices. In fact, the original 802.11 standard was adopted in 1997 but had a maximum bandwidth of 2 Mbps, far slower than the 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps common in wired LANs. 802.11 systems were also plagued by interoperability problems, which made many organizations leery of deploying this technology.


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