IEEE 802.11 is a set of media access control (MAC) and physical layer (PHY) specifications for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 900 MHz and 2.4, 3.6, 5, and 60 GHz frequency bands. They are created and maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802). The base version of the standard was released in 1997, and has had subsequent amendments. The standard and amendments provide the basis for wireless network products using the Wi-Fi brand. While each amendment is officially revoked when it is incorporated in the latest version of the standard, the corporate world tends to market to the revisions because they concisely denote capabilities of their products. As a result, in the market place, each revision tends to become its own standard.
The 802.11b standard has a maximum raw data rate of 11 Mbit/s, and uses the same media access method defined in the original standard. 802.11b products appeared on the market in early 2000
In June 2003, a third modulation standard was ratified: 802.11g. This works in the 2.4 GHz band (like 802.11b), but uses the same OFDM based transmission scheme. It operates at a maximum physical layer bit rate of 54 Mbit/s
802.11n is an amendment that improves upon the previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output antennas (MIMO). 802.11n operates on both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz bands. Support for 5 GHz bands is optional. It operates at a maximum net data rate from 54 Mbit/s to 600 Mbit/s. The IEEE has approved the amendment, and it was published in October 2009.
IEEE 802.11ac-2013 is an amendment to IEEE 802.11, published in December 2013, that builds on 802.11n. Changes compared to 802.11n include wider channels (80 or 160 MHz versus 40 MHz) in the 5 GHz band, more spatial streams (up to eight versus four), higher-order modulation (up to 256-QAM vs. 64-QAM), and the addition of Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). As of October 2013, high-end implementations support 80 MHz channels, three spatial streams, and 256-QAM, yielding a data rate of up to 433.3 Mbit/s per spatial stream, 1300 Mbit/s total, in 80 MHz channels in the 5 GHz band. Vendors have announced plans to release so-called "Wave 2" devices with support for 160 MHz channels, four spatial streams, and MU-MIMO in 2014 and 2015.
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