Draft WLAN spec for 2.4-GHz band approved

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc. (IEEE) has approved the draft of a new wireless LAN standard – 802.11g – that will provide raw data speeds of 54Mbps in the same 2.4-GHz frequency band now used by the older and widely used 802.11b standard.

Brian Grimm, a spokesman for the Wireless Internet Compatibility Alliance in Mountain View, Calif., said he doesn’t expect to see any 802.11g products hit the market until at least next summer, since the draft specification still requires final approval.

Grimm said that since the 802.11g standard is backward-compatible with the 802.11b standard, users with a “b” card will be able to access a “g” network, but only at the 11Mbps data rate of “b” systems.

Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Md., said the 802.11g wireless LAN systems should also provide users with the same range (roughly between 100 feet and 300 feet indoors, double that distance outdoors) as “b” systems, saving organizations that adopt the new standard from having to install new antennas or access points.

That’s not the case with the 802.11a standard approved by the IEEE last year. It also offers data rates of 54Mbps, but in the 5-GHz frequency band, which has less range than the 2.4-GHz band. Grimm said the 5-GHz band offers less likelihood of interference from cordless phones and microwave ovens – which also operate in the 2.4-GHz band – and a wider band, 200 MHz of spectrum for the “a” standard vs. 83 MHz for the “b” standard.

Grimm said wireless LAN manufacturers will try to cover their bets by offering combination access points that operate either in the “a” or “g” band, with “g” systems also supporting users with “b” cards.