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What is 802.11a?
802.11a is a wireless networking standard created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It was designed to be an improvement over 802.11, which had been shown to have some security problems. 802.11a operates in the 5 gigahertz frequency range, which allows it to transmit data at speeds up to 54 megabytes per second (Mbps).
The IEEE has created three different types of 802.11a networks: Infrastructure, Ad-Hoc, and Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (WMANs). The infrastructure network uses a centralized wireless access point to provide internet connectivity for nearby users; while the ad-hoc is an independent system where computers communicate directly with each other without needing any type of central control or server device. A WMAN provides fixed high bandwidth service in areas that are too large for using ad hoc technology alone.
As early as 1999, the 802.11a standard had been created, in addition to 802.11b which was released around the same time. Most routers and wireless cards were made at that time using 802.11b, even though it only had an 11 Mbps data transfer rate. Because of this distinction, 802.11b remained more popular for the first few years than its sibling successor, 802.11a.
802.11g was introduced to the market in 2003, and both of the previous standards were finally being phased out for good. 802.11g was also released to support transfer rates up to 54 Mbps (like 802.11a) on the 2.4 GHz band (whereas it had previously been positioned).
In order for 802.11a wireless to work, all devices on the network must support it.
Key Features of 802.11a
To better comprehend the capabilities of 802.11a, it’s important to explore its key features:
- Data Transfer Speed: One of the major advantages of 802.11a is its ability to provide faster data transfer rates compared to its predecessor, 802.11b. It achieves this by employing Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) as its modulation scheme. With a maximum data transfer rate of 54 Mbps, 802.11a is ideal for applications that require high bandwidth, such as multimedia streaming and large file transfers.
- Channel Capacity: The 5 GHz frequency band used by 802.11a offers a larger number of non-overlapping channels compared to the 2.4 GHz band used by 802.11b. This means that 802.11a can support more devices simultaneously without experiencing significant interference. The availability of multiple channels enhances network performance in dense environments like office buildings and public spaces.
- Frequency Band: The 5 GHz frequency band is less crowded than the 2.4 GHz band, which is shared with other devices such as cordless phones and microwaves. By operating in the 5 GHz bands, 802.11a reduces the likelihood of interference from other wireless devices, leading to improved overall network performance and reliability.
- Shorter Range: While 802.11a offers higher data transfer rates and reduced interference, it does come with a trade-off: a shorter range compared to 802.11b. The higher frequency used by 802.11a results in decreased signal propagation and penetration capabilities. As a result, 802.11a is better suited for smaller areas or deployments where multiple access points can be strategically placed to ensure coverage.