Securing your wireless network

Wireless networking standards


The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) develops official standards to enable wireless local area network (WLAN) devices to work together, regardless of which manufacturer made them.

These standards are driven by two factors:

  • speed - getting data transmitted faster between PCs and access points
  • security - making sure that the wireless capability is not abused

You need to be aware of both factors when choosing wireless networking equipment.

Current IEEE standards

At present, the IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax standards are widely accepted throughout the industry. 802.11a uses the 5Ghz band and has a shorter range than the wireless technologies of equivalent output power that use the 2.4GHz band.

802.11b standard uses the 2.4GHz band, supports operation up to 100 metres away in unobstructed areas, but it has limited security capability, particularly in older devices.

802.11g standard offers greater speed and security and is available in most new equipment. If you are setting up your first WLAN, or upgrading an existing system, you should buy equipment that incorporates at least 802.11g standard as a minimum. Using 802.11b and 802.11g devices together is possible, but if you do, you may find that your 802.11g equipment is less effective.

New generation of wireless standards

If you're in the market for new wireless networking equipment, it may be worth looking at the newer IEEE standards to make sure you don't buy a wireless technology that quickly becomes obsolete. Some of the more recent standards include:

  • IEEE 802.11i - an amendment to the original IEEE 802.11 standard that specifies security mechanisms for wireless networks.
  • IEEE 802.11n - an amendment to the previous IEEE 802.11-2007 standard to improve wireless network throughput. 802.11n offers faster maximum speeds and better signal range, and be more resistant to signal interference from outside sources.
  • IEEE 11ac and ax - are newer standards that can offer even faster throughput.

Find IEEE published standards.

A common strategy for many businesses is to set up 802.11g client devices - the local equipment - while gradually moving to 802.11n or 802.11ac/ax as part of new equipment purchases. The 802.11n or 802.11ac/ax equipment is backward compatible with 802.11g.

Wi-Fi 6 standard

Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is the newest version of the 802.11 standard for wireless network transmissions. It offers backwards compatibility and promises to improve speed and reliability at a network level. It enables more devices to simultaneously operate on the same Wi-Fi channel, which improves the efficiency, latency times, and data throughput of your wireless network.

Learn more about Wi-Fi 6 standard.

When considering standards and networking equipment, choose devices that the Wi-Fi Alliance has tested and certified. This guarantees that they meet industry requirements and can work together.