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Wireless Fidelity - unexpected speed

Wireless networking is accomplished by sending a signal from one computer to another over radio waves. The most common form of wireless computing today uses the IEEE 802.11b standard. This popular standard, also called Wi-Fi or Wireless Fidelity, is now supported directly by newer laptops and PDAs, and most computer accessory manufacturers. It’s so popular that “big box” electronics chain stores carry widely used wireless hardware and networking products. Wi-Fi is the root of a logo and branding program created by the Wi-Fi Alliance. A product that uses the Wi-Fi logo has been certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance to fulfill certain guidelines for interoperability. Logo certification programs like this one are created and promoted to assure users that products will work together in the marketplace. So, if you buy a Proxim wireless client adapter with the Wi-Fi logo branding, and a Linksys access point with the same logo on the product, they should work together. The IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi standard supports a maximum speed of 11 megabits per second (Mbps). The true throughput is actually something more like 6 Mbps, and can drop to less than 3 Mbps with encryption enabled. Newer standards like 802.11a and the increasingly popular 802.11g support higher speeds up to 54 Mbps. So why is 802.11b so popular? Because it was first and it was cheap. Even 3 Mbps is still much faster than you normally need to use the Internet. A megabit is one million binary digits (bits) of data. Network speed is almost always measured in bits per second (bps). It takes 8 bits to make a byte. Bytes are used mostly to measure file size (as in files on a hard disk). A megabyte is about 8 million bits of data. Don’t confuse the term megabyte for megabit or you will come out 8 million bits ahead. The 802.11a standard, which operates in the 5 GHz frequency band, is much faster than 802.11b, but never caught on, partly because of the high cost initially and partly because of the actual throughput in the real-world conditions of a deployed wireless network.