You may not have realized that there are several different flavors of wireless equipment. Most consumer and small business wireless components used the 802.11b standard, capable of moderate speeds and reasonably long ranges. The other standard, 802.11a, had some advantages – primarily less interference, because it uses a different part of the radio spectrum – but 802.11a devices can’t talk to 802.11b devices, and the market settled on 802.11b pretty decisively.

There’s a new arrival, 802.11g, which just received its final approval from the group responsible for such things. (802.11g equipment has been hitting the market for some months now, but some of it may need to be upgraded to meet the official “standard.”)

802.11g has an important advantage: it can talk to 802.11b devices, so nobody’s existing equipment becomes obsolete. It’s significantly faster (the theoretical speeds are 54Mb/sec vs. 11Mb/sec, although there’s all sorts of reasons that you don’t actually get those speeds in real life), and the range is almost the same as 802.11b.

For a short time, 802.11g devices will be more expensive than comparable 802.11b devices, but expect prices to head down to the same levels. As of now, 802.11g equipment is the right choice if you’re buying wireless.

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