Wi-Fi is a disruptive technology that came unexpectedly and has been growing by leaps and bounds, mainly because it is inexpensive and fills a need. Originally, Wi-Fi was just a hack so that people could connect a notebook to a network via wireless using a spectrum that didn't have to be paid for. No one expected it to grow so fast, and to become used so widely. The fact that it has spread like wildfire has caused many kinds of technology companies, from wireless cell phone providers to network hardware manufacturers, to rethink their businesses.
For sure, some telecommunications executives must be turning to each other and saying, "Hey, why should we build expensive proprietary networks when it is being done cheaply and on the fly using Wi-Fi?"
The growth of Wi-Fi has spawned all kinds of fun and useful developments and gizmos. For some examples, turn to Chapter 7, "Playing with Wi-Fi Gadgets."
As Wi-Fi grows up, it is getting better, more secure, and faster. Clearly, vendors and the Wi-Fi Alliance have listened to the users' need for security (as represented by the 802.11i standard) and interoperability. If you decide to use one of the newer flavors of Wi-Fi, you'll probably find that it will interoperate well with older versions.
The Absolute Minimum
Here are the key points to remember from this chapter:
All radio transmissions operate on a spectrum band.
Wi-Fi uses the unlicensed 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
The 802.11b standard is the predominate flavor of Wi-Fi today.
The 802.11a and 802.11g standards are up-and-coming faster versions of Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi provides data throughput that is fine for most uses.
802.11b will work with 802.11g and vice versa. 802.11a will only work with other 802.11a devices.