802.11b: A popular wideband wireless technology for moving data at 11 Megabits per second. The name refers to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) specification for the technology. 802.11b extends collision detecting Ethernet technology to wireless data transfer in the 2.4 GHz RF region. 802.11b is backwards compatible with the older 802.11 technology which had a 2Mbps transfer capability. The two technologies use different modulation techniques -- Phase shift keying for 802.11 vs Complimentary Code Keying for 802.11b. 802.11b is generally spoken of as an 11Mbps service although it also supports 5 and 20 Mbps usage.

802.11b is marketed as "Wi-Fi"

802.11b allows standard Ethernet to be extended to wireless devices. It supports the devices roaming around the service area including switching for different transmitter/receiver pairs. An antenna a few inches in length (which may be "internal" to the 802.11b device) is required. Antenna orientation can dramatically affect signal strength.

802.11b provides security through a Wireless Encryption Protocol. There are serious questions about how secure WEP is in practice. There are also issues of data security on public 802.11b networks especially for Windows Notebooks that have Microsoft Networking with File and Printer Sharing enabled. Security is also an issue for workstations on network segments accessible to wandering 802.11b devices.

802.11b is not interoperable with the somewhat similar Home RF technology. Neither is it interoperable with "Bluetooth" a shortrange technology primarily intended for use with wireless peripherals..

802.11a is also a wireless technology, but it operates in the 5-6GHz region and uses ATM rather than Ethernet data handling at data rates slightly higher than 802.11b. 802.11a and 802.11b are not interoperable.


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