A look at 802.11a, b, and g throughput

Monday, 11 August 2003, 11:17 AM EST

Now that the 802.11g standard has been finalized, comparisons with the other standards in the 802.11 family are inevitable. One conclusion that is frequently drawn is that 802.11g offers similar speeds to 802.11a. After all, both products are advertised as having a data rate of 54 Mbps.

This article develops a simple model for the maximum TCP throughput of 802.11 networks so that a comparison can move beyond a simple comparison of nominal bit rates. According to the model, 802.11g is significantly faster than 802.11b. In a network consisting only of 802.11g clients, it is even slightly faster than 802.11a. However, "protection" mechanisms added to 802.11g to ensure backwards compatibility with legacy 802.11b clients can cut the throughput by 50 percent or more.

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