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Competing Technologies to IEEE 802.11


HiperLAN2 is a wireless LAN technology operating in the license free 5 GHz (5.4 to 5.7 GHz) U-NII band.

Under development by the European Telecommunications Standardization Institute (ETSI) Broadband Radio Access Networks (BRAN) project, HiperLAN2 is designed to carry ATM cells, IP packets, firewire packets, and digital data from cellular phones. Whereas 802.11a is a form of wireless Ethernet, HiperLAN2 is commonly regarded as wireless ATM.

An extension the 802.11 standard, 802.11a is connectionless Ethernet-like standard, meaning there isn’t a persistent connection between client and server. On the other hand, HiperLAN2 is based on connection-oriented links, though it can accept Ethernet frames. 802.11a is optimized for data communications, as are all standards based on 802.11.

HiperLAN2 is best suited to wireless multimedia because of its integrated Quality of Service (QoS) support. HiperLAN2 will have a difficult time competing with the momentum of 802.11a for several reasons. 802.11a has year head start over HiperLAN2. In addition, the 802.11a group looking for ways to incorporate the best features of HiperLAN2 within its own standards. It is expected that one merged European standard will emerge and it will most likely be 802.11a incorporating the best features of HiperLAN2.


HomeRF was the first practical wireless home networking technology and came out in mid-2000. HomeRF stands for Home Radio Frequency, as it uses radio frequencies to transmit data over ranges of 75 to 125 feet.

HomeRF uses SWAP (Shared Wireless Access Protocol), which is a hybrid standard, developed from IEEE 802.11. SWAP can connect up to 127 network devices and transmits at speeds up to 2Mbps.

Overall the major disadvantage to a HomeRF network is data transmission speed. Two Mbps is fine for sharing files and printing normal files. It is insufficient for streaming media and printing or transferring large graphic files. HomeRF still provides some advantages to those wanting a less expensive wired network solution. HomeRF also does not interfere with Bluetooth and is better for transmitting voice signals.

The following table summarizes the major WLAN standards

Wireless Local Area Networking Technologies

Application Key Tech Dataspeeds (Max/Avg) The Good The Bad The Bottom Line
Enterprise Networking 802.11 2 Mbps/ 1.2 Mbps Wireless local area networking Slow, expensive, poor security Good start but now superceded
  802.11b 11 Mbps/5.5 Mbps Faster, cheaper, stronger than 802.11 Security still not cast iron, more expensive than wireline Viable for widespread enterprise adoption now
  802.11g 22 Mbps Faster than 802.11b Specification not fixed, competing technologies could divide vendor focus Should supersede 802.11b within 18 months
Enterprise and Metropolitan Area Networking 802.11a 54 Mbps/24 Mbps, future iterations being planned to support up to 100 Mbps Faster than 802.11b and 802.11g New modulation scheme and different frequency band, unlikely to be backward compatible with 802.11b. No support for voice in initial specification. Costs not proven, likely to be relatively expensive Available 2002, but wait 12 months for cost reduction
  HiperLAN/2 54 Mbps/24 Mbps Backed by "big names," supports connection-oriented services such as voice Likely to be expensive. Direct competitor with 802.11a; likely to be the loser in a head-to-head competition Will struggle against competition from 802.11a
Home Networking HomeRF 2 Mbps/1 Mbps; planned future iterations will support up to 10 Mbps Fast, cost-effective home networking standard Unlikely to be established outside home environment Some penetration, but fails to become mainstream