Wireless Networking Standards
Enable Products to Work Together


Wireless networking standards are essential to avoid network chaos. Imagine people trying to achieve a common goal, but each wants to do things his way and no one can agree on anything. Disharmony rules and nothing constructive is achieved. Without standards, the same thing would happen to wireless devices.


Before you purchase a new wireless product you need to check that the standard it’s been manufactured to matches the standard of the network you want it to connect to. Here the manufacturer is making a very clear statement.

Wireless networking standards ensure that wireless products from one manufacturer operate correctly with those from another. If we didn’t have standards, only products made by the same manufacturer would operate together.

A standard removes this limit and creates a solid framework on which many product brands and services can be developed and used together, with confidence.

Networking standards you need to know about


IEEE 802.11


for Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs)

A WLAN covers an area such as the house or the building you’re working in.

A typical WLAN might consist of a single wireless Internet connection being shared by several wireless-connected laptop computers.

If the wireless card in each laptop and the wireless router all meet the appropriate 802.11 standard, then they should all work happily together on the network. There would be no arguments, just harmony.


IEEE 802.15


for Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs)

A WPAN covers your immediate personal working area, such as the room you’re working in.

A typical WPAN might consist of a wireless mouse and a wireless keyboard that you’re using to interact with your computer. Imagine the confusion if the mouse spoke a language that the computer couldn’t understand. Without this standard, the result could be unpredictable...you might move the mouse sideways and the cursor might disappear off the top of the screen never to be seen again.

What's IEEE (I triple E)?


Something of a technical heavyweight, the IEEE leads the development of the international standards that support many of today’s products and services, including the wireless networking standards.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest technical professional association. It’s been around for about 125 years.

Find out more about the IEEE.

What's 802.xx?


It’s likely that the 802 came from the date of the first LAN committee meeting, February 1980. However, the origin isn’t important, just think of it as an identifier.

The .xx is just the next number in the sequence that they assign the next task to. They then set up a working group made up of various experts and other interested parties, and if this was the 11th task they’d call it 802.11, or if it was the 15th task they’d call it 802.15.

A good standard will always go through a process of evolution as improvements are added by all interested parties. The standard keeps the same number and the amendments are indicated by the addition of a letter, for example... 802.11a, 802.11b etc

All the early amendments have now been rolled into a new document...

The current standard is 802.11 - 2007


And just before we move on from the top two, here are two important subcategories of the WPAN standard 802.15...

802.15.1 Bluetooth


Bluetooth supports products such as wireless mice and wireless keyboards. Here's what a typical bluetooth wireless adaptor looks like. It plugs into an available USB socket on your laptop and allows your laptop to communicate wirelessly with other things.


802.15.4 Zigbee


Zigbee supports products such as
wireless sensors, that need very little power and can be put in sleep mode.

Here are two more standards that are under active development...

IEEE P1451


for Wireless Sensors


This standard accommodates various technologies that have already been developed for wireless sensors currently being used by a number of different companies.

IEEE 802.20


for Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA)



This wireless networking standard supports mobile broadband Internet-based, always-on products, worldwide, made by different manufacturers. It enables high speed access to networks, including the Internet.

How does wireless Internet work?

Wireless networking standards underpin all successful wireless technology. Want to know a bit more about a specific standard? Check the links below.


802.11 Standard
Find out about the wireless 802.11 standard and how to ensure that the new wireless device you’re about to buy will work properly with your network.


802.11n Standard
The 802.11n standard delivers real benefits for Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs)... it’s faster, works over a greater distance, more reliable, scalable, more secure and compatible with a greater number of other wireless technology products.

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