Wireless LAN Standards: Comparing 802.11 and Bluetooth Standards

802.11 is divided primarily into three sub-standards, viz. 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g among others. The following table distinguishes the differences and similarities between these standards and Bluetooth. Bluetooth is an alternative wireless network technology that followed a different development path than the 802.11 family of standards.

802.11 Wireless LAN Standards Comparison
Properties 802.11a 802.11b 802.11g Bluetooth
Data Rate(Mbps) 54 11 54 721Kbps 56Kbps
Operating Frequency(GHz) 5 2.4 2.4 2.4
Typical power output (mw) 40-800 100 100 100
Compatibility Not compatible with 802.11b or 802.11g Not compatible with 802.11a or 802.11g Compatible with 802.11b Not compatible with 802.11a/b.
Range 150feet 150feet 150feet 30feet
Interference risk Low High High High
Price Expensive Cheap Moderate Moderate
Hot-spot access Poor Good Good Poor

Though 802.11a and 802.11b standards have been developed around the same time, 802.11b has become very popular due affordability of the hardware for small business and home networking. However, considering any future expansion, it is desirable to buy equipment that is capable of operating in duel modes (802.11 a/b).

Bluetooth supports a very short range (approximately 10 meters) and relatively low bandwidth (1 Mbps). In practice, Bluetooth networks PDAs or cell phones with PCs but not used widely for general-purpose Wireless LAN networking. The very low manufacturing cost of Bluetooth makes it a viable solution for wireless devices like PDAs and Cell phones. Note that the 801.11 and Bluetooth standards are incompatible with each other.