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g Whiz!

Swimming through the alphabet soup of today's wireless standards

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This story appears in the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Can't decide whether to upgrade to a super-fast 802.11awireless network or stick with the slower but cheaper 802.11bhardware? Well, the choice just got tougher. Millions of adaptersfor a third choice-802.11g-are already surging into the market. The"g" specification offers the same 54Mbps speed of the802.11a, but in the 2.4GHz band used by the installed base of802.11b networks, with more robust security. The "g"spec's backward compatibility with "b" networks couldpreserve older Wi-Fi investments, but the degree of compatibilityremains to be seen.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers won'tfinalize the spec until this summer, enabling the Wi-Fi Alliance tobegin testing and certifying the interoperability of different"g" devices. Some vendors have already shipped more than2 million 802.11g adapters they claim have Wi-Fi certification.How? Such products are "certified" only for backwardcompatibility with 802.11b adapters-not with each other. Beforeyear's end, you'll see products supporting combinations ofthese protocols and enhancements to current standards.

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