The lowdown on WiFi

What are they? Wireless APs are wireless LAN radio transceivers used to connect a wired LAN to one or several wired devices. Some wireless APs also provide bridging, gateway and router functions separately or simultaneously with their main AP function.

What's available? Three main standards govern today's wireless AP marketplace. 802.11b APs, with a maximum throughput of 11 Mbps on the 2.4-GHz spectrum, are most popular and least expensive. 802.11a devices boast throughput speeds of 54 Mbps and run on the less-crowded 5-GHz band. 802.11g APs also run at 54 Mbps in the 2.4-GHz band and are backward-compatible with 802.11b devices.

Must-know info? At the moment, 802.11b products are the most popular and least expensive, but have limitations in speed and flexibility. 802.11a APs are faster and can handle more users, but have a shorter range and are expensive. The 802.11g standard is the likely successor to 11b, because it adds speed and capacity, and its devices are backward-compatible with 11b devices already in place. Finally, dual-band or triple-band devices that incorporate more than a single standard provide optimum flexibility and versatility, often at good prices.

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