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Wireless Networking Your PC

The Dawn of the Wireless Renaissance. It's Time to Go Wireless!

Although we're constantly hearing about the miracle of wireless technology, we're merely at the dawn of the Wireless Renaissance. From Auckland New Zealand to Mt. Everest, Internet cafes and other wireless hot spots dot our increasingly interconnected globe (yes, there really is an Internet Cafe at a Mt. Everest base camp), but the best and most ingenious use of this breakthrough innovation is yet to come.

For now, the wireless gold standard is 802.11g - the newest, fastest and most powerful 802.11 radio technology that broadens bandwidths to 125 Mbps within the 2.4 GHz band. Because of backward compatibility, older and slower 802.11b radio cards can interface directly with an 802.11g access point and vice versa at 11Mbps or lower, depending upon range.

We've come a long way, baby - just in the past couple of months. That's how rapidly the wireless net that will someday encompass the entire globe is morphing. Much quicker than we write these words, technicians are gleaning new ideas that will revolutionize the way we communicate. From Marconi (the inventor of wireless communication back in the late 19th Century) to 802.11g - the sky is not the limit for how far we will take the wireless renaissance - it was merely a suggestion that we rejected long ago.

Rating the 802.11 Wireless Standards

In 1997, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the first WLAN standard they called it 802.11. Because it could only support a maximum bandwidth of 2Mbps - far too slow for most of today's applications - ordinary 802.11 wireless products are no longer being manufactured. The next wireless incarnation was 802.11b, which supports bandwidths of up to 11Mbps, followed by the creation of 802.11g, which supports bandwidth up to 125 Mbps and signals in a regulated 5 GHz range. While 802.11g is the fastest wireless technology, is it the best for your home or business? Here is a brief synopsis of the three primary 802.11 standards:

  1. 802.11b - This technology supports bandwidth up to 11MBps, which is comparable to the speeds of traditional Ethernets. 802.11b uses the same 2.4GHz radio signaling as the original 802.11 standard. Because it is an unregulated frequency, 802.11b devices run the risk of incurring interference from appliances that use the same 2.4 GHz range, such as microwaves and cordless phones. However, if you install 802.11b devices out of range of other appliances, you can avoid the interference. Some manufacturers prefer using unregulated frequencies, such as 802.11b to lower their production costs. On the negative side, 802.11b is relatively slow and supports fewer simultaneous users.

  2. 802.11a (not recommended for most wireless users) - IEEE created 802.11a at the same time it made 802.11b. 802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and signals in a regulated 5 GHz range. This higher frequency limits the range of 802.11a in comparison to 802.11b, and due to its higher cost it's used primarily in the business sector rather than in homes. 802.11a's higher frequency also causes its signals to have difficulty penetrating walls and other obstructions. Because they utilize different frequencies, 802.11a and 802.11b devices are incompatible with each other.

  3. 802.11g - This technology supports of up to 125 Mbps, uses the 2.4 GHz frequency and is backwards compatible with 802.11b devices. 802.11g supports more simultaneous users, offers the best signal range and is not easily obstructed. The disadvantages of 802.11g is higher cost and possible interference with appliances on the unregulated signal frequency.

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