Comparing B, G and G+

ITKnowledge Exchange member "EileenC" had a question about the differences between the wireless standards. Read what fellow techies had to say.

ITKnowledge Exchange member "EileenC" had a question about the differences between the wireless standards. Read what fellow techies had to say.

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ITKnowledge Exchange member "EileenC" asked:
I was wondering if anyone can tell me what the difference is between wireless B, G and G+. What are the pros and cons of each?


B is 11 MB, maximum. G can go up to 54 MB and has more range than B, and is an upgrade of B. If one B client attaches to your G network, everything reverts to B speeds. I have to assume G+ is the upcoming WiMax. This will extend the range of G to 30 miles. WiMax has not been fully ratified yet. There are still competing camps as to the format. It could still change.


802.11b products have been around for several years. They have a top link speed of 11 Mbps, but in practice deliver about 5-6 Mbps when the wireless station and AP (or router) are close to each other (about 20 feet). As distance increases, link speed drops, until the station and AP can no longer communicate effectively.

802.11g products have been around for about two years now. 802.11g is a backwards-compatible upgrade from 802.11b because (unlike 802.11a) B and G operate on the same radio frequencies. Standard G has a top link speed of 54 Mbps -- again, this means throughput of perhaps 25 Mbps when the station and AP are close, dropping with distance.

Technically, B and G have the same range, but G products can deliver higher throughput at a distance. In practical terms, that means that you'll communicate more effectively when your station and AP are, say, 100 feet apart, with walls between them. Also, a new G product is just plain likely to work better than an old B product from the same vendor due to code fixes and hardware improvements unrelated to radio standards.

If you have old laptops with built-in B cards, but you're buying new adapters for new laptops or new APs/routers, it makes good sense to buy G products today. They're likely to cost the same or very little more than B products and can interoperate with older B products, albeit no faster than 11 Mbps. When B and G products operate in the same area, the G products must use a compatibility mode that reduces their top speed, but G-to-G connections will still be faster than B-to-G connections at the same distance.

Finally, what is G+? You could be asking about any one of MANY vendor extensions to 802.11g. For example, Atheros? Super G bonds two radio channels to get a top link speed of 108 Mbps (60 Mbps throughput). Or you could be thinking of Broadcom's 54g BroadRange technology, which extends 802.11g's range without channel bonding. The IEEE is working on an even higher-speed WLAN standard, 802.11n, to be based on some kind of as-yet-unchosen MIMO technology. Several products labeled "extended G" or "pre-N" implement MIMO-related technologies to go faster and reach farther -- see Going the distance with MIMO for several examples.




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