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Wi-Fi Standards Glossary

2006-10-06 (updated: 2019-12-18) by

802.3 or 10BaseT is the IEEE standard for 10Mbps Ethernet LANs using twisted-pair wire.


802.11 is the IEEE standard that outlines the elements of wireless local area networks (WLANs) and is commonly called "Wi-Fi" for "wireless fidelity."

There are various specifications under the standard, the most commonly used ones listed below:

802.11a: The specification for WLANs operating in the 5GHz band with a maximum throughput of 54Mbps.

802.11b: The specification for WLANs operating in the 2.4GHz band with a maximum throughput of 11Mbps.

803.11e: The specification for quality of service (QoS) in sensitive data traffic through enhancement in the medium access control (MAC) layer and the provision of error correction.

802.11g: The specification for WLANs in the 2.4GHz band operating with enhanced throughput (up to 54Mbps) and using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology.

802.11i: The specification for enhanced WLAN security using Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), with 128-bit keys for encryption and 64-bit keys for authentication.

802.11j: The specification for enhancing WLANs in Japan in the 4.9-5GHz band.

802.11k: The specification for improving WLAN throughput and increasing the efficiency of network resources by enabling better access to underutilized access points.

802.11n  (Wi-Fi 4): WLANs in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands operating with enhanced throughput and using multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) technology. Retroactively labeled Wi-Fi 4 by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5): 5 GHz wireless standard that builds on 802.11n, adding wider channels (80 or 160 MHz vs. 40 MHz), more spatial streams, higher order modulation (up to 256-QAM) and MU-MIMO support.

802.11ad: a protocol in the 60 GHz millimeter wave spectrum used for very high data rates (~8 Gbit/s) for short range communication (~1-10 meters).

802.11af (White-Fi, Super Wi-Fi): WLAN operation in TV white space spectrum in the VHF and UHF bands between 54 and 790 MHz. The physical layer uses OFDM and is based on 802.11ac.

801.11ax (Wi-Fi 6): the successor to 802.11ac, increasing the efficiency of WLAN networks. 802.11ax aims to provide 4x the throughput of 802.11ac in the user layer, having only 37% higher nominal rates at the PHY layer.


802.16 is the IEEE standard that specifies the WirelessMAN Air Interface used for wireless metropolitan area networks (MANs). It discusses efficient bandwidth use of the 10GHz and 66GHz licensed bands and the 2GHz and 11GHz licensed and unlicensed bands. The standard also defines a medium access control (MAC) layer supporting multiple physical layer specifications customized for the frequency band of use.

Access point

A base station that is used by wireless devices to connect to wired LANs.


Short for Advanced Encryption Standard. An encryption protocol using the Rijndael algorithm that is replacing other standards such as WEP and DES.


A process of verifying a Wi-Fi user's identity on a network, such as with a password.

Base station

A transmitter/receiver used to handle radio communications traffic within a given range in a wireless network.

Bits per second

A measurement of data transmission speed, such as 11 Mbps (megabits per second).


A wireless technology in the 2.4GHz band designed to connect related equipment (such as cellphones with headsets, computers with printers, or other hardware usually linked by cables) for communication with each other inside a short radius, usually 30 feet.


A transceiver, such as an access point, that connects two or more LANs to a wireless LAN.


A high-speed Internet connection that uses a wide bandwidth. Also, pertaining to a service that offers different types of applications (voice, video and data).


A user's PC (or other device) on a LAN that is connected to the network server, which receives and provides data to the PC on request.


Short for Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance. The access protocol used by 802.11 networks to reduce the number of collisions during transmission of competing data traffic in the network.


Short for Data Encryption Standard. A previous, and now outdated, form of encryption used in wireless LANs.


Short for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. A function of the DHCP server that assigns IP addresses from a list on a continual basis.


Short for Domain Name System. A program that automatically translates URL names (such as typed in by the user into numerical IP addresses that the server can access.


Short for Extensible Authorization Protocol. The protocol used for securing transport of authentication data in 802.11 networks between an access point and an authentication server.


The method of encoding data to secure it before transmitting over a network.

Encryption Key

A series of alphanumeric characters that enables data to be encrypted (or encoded) at the transmit point and decrypted (or decoded) at the receive point.


The technology standard for wired local area networks. Speeds begin at 10 megabits per second in a 10BaseT network.

Fast Ethernet

An Ethernet technology that enables speeds of 100 megabits per second. Also called 100BaseT.


A hardware and software system that protects a network from exposure to and unauthorized access from outside attacks seeking to capture or infect it, such as viruses and hackers.


An entry point into a full-featured network, such as through a Wi-Fi access point.

Gigabit Ethernet

An Ethernet technology that enables speeds of 1000 megabits (1 gigabit) per second.


A public location, such as a restaurant, hotel or convention center, where Wi-Fi service (for free or for a subscription or one-time charge) is available through the placement of an access point.


Hardware in a fixed location that connects different users to a network via multiple ports on the hub.


Short for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. An international organization responsible for developing standards for LAN equipment.


Short for Internet Protocol. A term that describes any device or system that uses the public Internet or a private Internet-based network to transmit and receive data to and from Internet addresses.

IP address

A 32-bit number that determines the location on the network of a data transmission device (such as an Internet server) or receive device (such as a PC). The IP address appears as a string of three or four number fields, each between 1 and 256 and separated by dots, such as


Short for Local Area Network. A group of computers and peripheral devices in one location, interconnected by wired or wireless methods, that can communicate with one another.

MAC Address

Short for Medium Access Control Address. A unique MAC address is programmed in every network interface card or device that operates on a local area network such as Wi-Fi. For reasons of network security, identifies a specific user device by means of its MAC address before on the network.


Short for Metropolitan Area Network. A network covering a city or other large area, such as a campus.


Short for Multiple Input, Multiple-Output. A technology that uses signals from multiple smart antennas to increase network bandwidth and range.

MU-MIMO (Multi-user MIMO)

A set of MIMO technologies for wireless communication where a set of wireless terminals or users, each with multiple antennas communicate with each other. It builds on single-user MIMO where a single multi-antenna transmitter communicates with a single multi-antenna receiver.


Short for Network Interface Card. An adapter card inserted as an expansion card or already integrated in a PC for enabling access to a local area network.


Short for Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing. An emerging technology for wireless LANs in which data signals are divided into smaller channels at different frequencies.

PC Card

A removable card, often for a laptop computer or portable computing device, that is inserted into a slot to supply a network connection, additional memory or other input-output device. Previously called PCMCIA card.

Peer-to-peer network

A network that enables its users to communicate with one another directly without first receiving permission from the central server or router. Abbreviated P2P.


Short for Power over Ethernet. A technology defined by the IEEE 802.3af standard that enables the transmission of DC power over twisted-pair Ethernet data cables.


Short for Quality of Service. A minimum performance standard of a network's data transmission rate, bandwidth, latency or other measurement identified by the network provider.

Residential gateway

A device that enables multiple PCs and peripherals to connect to a wireless home network.


The ability in some types of wireless networks for their mobile users to be handed off to adjacent networks seamlessly, without disconnection of service.


A central computer that serves as the main processor for data, Internet access, printing and other resources by users on a network.


Short for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The protocols that provide the foundation for communications over connected networks such as the Internet. TCP/IP defines the protocols for message transfer as well as IP addresses for transmission and receive devices.


Short for universal serial bus. A serial connection between a PC and a peripheral device providing 12 megabits per second data transfer and plug-and-play connectivity.


Short for voice over Internet protocol. A technology that converts analog voice signals into digital packets and enables real-time communication over public networks (such as the Internet) or private networks.


Short for virtual private network. A private, secure communications "tunnel" between two users, created from part of an existing public network, for sending and receiving voice, video and data messages.


Short for Wired Equivalent Privacy. A previous, and now outdated, form of encryption used in wireless LANs.


A technology that enables computers to connect within a short range automatically to a wired local area network without a data cable. Sometimes expanded to "Wireless Fidelity."


Short for Wireless Local Area Network. A type of LAN that provides data communications between computing devices using radio frequency connections, such as through wireless PC cards and access points.

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