Question: What is the wireless speed for 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac wireless standard?

When we talk about wireless speed, it’s more accurate to describe it as throughput, means the amount of data sent/received in certain time period, such as Megabits per second (Mbps) or Gigabits per second (Gbps). However, you can still call it as speed if you like (easier to understand).

- The throughput of 802.11a standard is 54Mbps and it works in 5GHz band only. This higher frequency use as compared to 802.11b shortens the range of 802.11a networks. The higher frequency also means 802.11a signals have more difficulty to penetrate walls and other obstructions, but the beauty is that the wireless device is able to transfer more data in less time on 5 GHz wireless network as compared with 2.4 GHz network.

- The throughput of 802.11b standard is 11Mbps and it works in 2.4 GHz band only. It's widely use in home network but the signal can be easily interfered by the electrical devices operating in 2.4 GHz, such as microwave ovens, cordless phone, Bluetooth devices, amateur radio equipment and so on.

- The throughput of 802.11g(successor of 802.11b) standard is 54Mbps and it works in 2.4 GHz band only. 802.11g is also compatible with 802.11b products because they both use the same radio frequency (2.4GHz) to transmit data over the airwaves.

- The throughput of 802.11n standard is 300Mbps and it can operate in 2.4 GHz and 5GHz bands. The jump of the supported speed is mainly due to the use of multiple multiple-input multiple-output antennas (MIMO) on the 802.11n devices. MIMO technology allows the wireless device to send and receive data to reduce error and boost speed. 802.11n is backward compatible with 802.11a (5GHz band), 802.11b (2.4GHz band) and 802.11g (2.4GHz band) products.

- The throughput of 802.11ac standard is 1 Gbps (Gigabits WiFi) and it works in 5 GHz band only, but still it is backwards compatible with 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11b and 802.11a wireless standards. This means you can buy 802.11ac device and still it will work just fine with your existing router. 802.11ac is called as Wi-Fi 5 by WiFi Alliance too.

- What is next wireless standard? Well! It's called 802.11ax or WiFi 6 and still work in progress by IEEE. It's going to support 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It will be 4x to 10x faster than existing Wi-Fi, and also will allow many devices connecting to wireless network without causing serious congestion issue. Right now the approval of this Wi-Fi 6 is estimated to be in late 2019.