Technology companies, facilitated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), have recently given a tentative nod to a novel standard dubbed 802.11g. This standard boasts data transfer speeds of up to 54 megabits per second (mbps), a significant five-fold increase from its predecessor. What sets 802.11g apart is its compatibility with existing wireless networking kits that adhere to the widely-used 802.11b standard.

Frequent users of 802.11b networking kits from industry players like Cisco Systems, 3Com, Proxim, Intel, and Agere Systems have enjoyed the flexibility of wirelessly linking their laptops, enabling seamless connectivity within various environments such as homes, offices, coffee shops, airports, and hotels. This technology has gained substantial traction over the years.

The final approval for the 802.11g standard is anticipated after a forthcoming vote by the standards organization, as confirmed by John Allen from chipmaker Intersil. However, the transition to the new standard has not been devoid of contention within the tech sphere. Some companies have already introduced faster wireless products based on the 802.11a standard, which matches the speed capabilities of the upcoming 802.11g standard.

The accelerated 54 mbps rate of the 802.11g standard opens doors for advanced functionalities like audio and video streaming, as well as the swift exchange of large files. Despite the advantages, concerns have been raised by some tech executives regarding the necessity of a third standard, fearing potential confusion for consumers and compatibility issues with existing products.

Notably, the compatibility between the 802.11b and the prospective 802.11g standards stems from their shared 2.4GHz frequency band, overlapping with common household devices like microwave ovens and cordless phones. In contrast, the 802.11a standard operates on the less congested 5GHz frequency, offering reduced interference but lacking compatibility with 802.11b devices.

One key aspect of the new 802.11g standard is its similarity in design to the 802.11a technology, according to Bill Carney, Director of Business Development at Texas Instruments. This uniformity presents an opportunity for network equipment giants such as Intel, Cisco, and 3Com to develop wireless PC cards that support all three standards – 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a – thereby addressing concerns about interoperability issues.

While some networking companies may opt to focus on supporting a single standard, the overarching goal of backing all three technologies is to mitigate compatibility worries, as highlighted by Intersil’s Allen. The strategic alignment of 802.11g with existing wireless technologies serves as a bridge to harmonize the diverse standards and products in the market.

The development of the 802.11g standard has been in progress for approximately a year, with deliberations at IEEE meetings reflecting a meticulous process. Despite initial challenges and deliberations between proposals from Intersil and Texas Instruments, the IEEE eventually synthesized elements from both propositions into the final 802.11g standard, a compromise that aims to propel wireless networking technology forward.