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If It’s 802.11b, It’s Time to Retire It

WiFi, also known as 802.11 has advanced over the years. You may have seen all sorts of symbols like 802.11b and 802.11g, etc. The letter after “802.11” is very important.

While the letter stands for many different things, the letter does indicate the maximum rates the device can “negotiate” with your wireless router or access point. For example, the maximum speed that an 802.11b device can negotiate is 11mbit, while the maximum rate on an 802.11n device can exceed 300mbit.

But here’s the catch. If you have an 802.11b device on the network, it will limit the amount of bandwidth available to the rest of the devices connected to the router, even if the router is a new 802.11n and your other devices are also 802.11g or 802.11n.

Because wireless speed is half duplex, that means that if you have a poorly connected 802.11b device negotiating at 1mbit with your router, the rest of the devices on the network may not get more than 0.5mbit of actual throughput. This is not true for 802.11g devices. The 802.11g devices are old too, but they do not impact the router and 802.11n devices in the same manner, only 802.11b devices do.

How do you know if your device is 802.11b only? As a general rule of thumb, if it’s over 5 years old, chances are it maybe 802.11b only. If it can only connect with WEP encryption to your router, it’s more than likely an 802.11b device. Sometime you can see the device wireless card specs in system preferences, or even by looking at the router connected devices. If you see a device that negotiates at 1, 2, 5.5 or 11 Mbit, it’s more than likely an 802.11b device. You can also search the web for the device specs and read through the device documentation on its wireless capabilities.