August 25, 2004, 1:56 PM —
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Analyst: Craig Mathias, Farpoint Group
Watch it: Available 24x7
Takeaway: Until the standard is completed, we are recommending against deployment of 802.11g in large enterprise settings.
Welcome to the analyst briefing on '802.11g: New PHY on the block'.
And as the title implies, 802.11g is a new PHY, or physical layer, within the IEEE 802.11 standards family. It joins 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, which has achieved enormous success in the marketplace, and the somewhat lesser known but higher performance IEEE 802.11a, which operates at 5.2 GHz.
Now it is important to point out here that 802.11g is not yet approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, that is the IEEE. This is part of the problem that we face today. So we can't really say definitively what it is.
However, at this point, we are far enough along in the development of the standard so that we can say that 802.11g is basically 802.11a but operating in the 2.4 GHz frequency band, which is the same as that used by 802.11b. And, in fact, 802.11g will be completely backwards compatible with 802.11b.
It will work with the existing 802.11 MAC (medium access control layer) and all of the proposed enhancements for 802.11, like 802.11i, which will be improved security. That ought to be along around the middle of 2003 as well.
Here you can see where 802.11g fits. Again, it is a PHY, a physical layer, so it is at the bottom of the protocol stack and right above that is the medium access control, or MAC, layer where all those nice features like security and power management live.
Now 802.11g, as you can see there, is completely independent of 802.11a, which operates in a different frequency band, and as I mentioned before will fall back to 802.11b in the event that either the user wants it to or radio conditions so dictate.
And of course all those nice other network operating system features that we look for for file transfers, all of those will still be available in the 802.11g standard as well.
So, what is all the fuss about? Well, most vendors, well many vendors anyway, have announced draft-compliant 802.11g products at this point. Now, the IEEE officially frowns on the practice of announcing products that are based on a draft version of a standard because, after all, there is no guarantee that the draft-compatible products will be compliant with the final standard.