If you are buying a device you want to use on your wireless network (laptop, router, printer, network card, etc.), then you want to watch for a clearer definition of the speed. IEEE has created standards for networking so we can use different manufacturers’ products on the same network. For wireless networking, the standard is 802.11. You will see a letter after that number that tells you the speed at which those devices can communicate. They can communicate with slower devices, in which case they operate at the lower speed. Normally, when you get a device, you want to get one at the highest speed, so as you replace parts, your networking speed will increase.
The speeds of wireless networks are shown as letters B, G and N. You may see Z mentioned, but it is still in development and involves changing ways the devices communicate to increase speeds. B was the original popular wireless network. It worked at 11 mbps (megabits per second), and you still see it in use. G became popularly available in about 2006 and operates at 54 mbps, so is about five times as fast as B. N came available just a few years ago, and the top speed on it is above 100 mbps, and the standard says it can push on up toward 200 mbps, but devices today operate at 100-120mbps. If you were to get a device or PC to use on a wireless network today, you would want N, which works with G and B and is usually 100-120mbps. You will see some manufacturers say they have turbo or super N or another similar term, and that it works at a higher speed. However, these devices will only work at the turbo speed while communicating with another device by the same manufacturer and rated the same way, but will operate at normal N (and B and G) with other manufacturers.
Thanks Rodney for the question.
Send your questions to Dwight Watt at firstname.lastname@example.org. He teaches at a technical college in northwest Georgia and does consulting work for businesses and individuals. His website is www.dwightwatt.com.