How Fast Is 802.11g Wi-Fi Networking?

Rated speed and actual speed aren't the same

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802.11g is one of the IEEE standards of Wi-Fi wireless networking technology. It was ratified in June 2003 and replaced the older standard of 802.11b. It has since been replaced by newer, faster versions of the standard, but 802.11g-compliant equipment is still in use.

The speed of a computer network is usually stated in terms of bandwidth in units of megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). The rated speed appears on the advertisements and packaging for all computer networking equipment.

802.11g Rated Speed

The rated speed of 802.11g networking devices is 54 Mbps. However, 802.11g and other Wi-Fi network protocols include a feature called dynamic rate scaling. When the wireless signal between two connected Wi-Fi devices is not strong, the connection cannot support the fastest speed. Instead, the Wi-Fi protocol reduces its maximum transmission speed to a lower number to maintain the connection.

It is common for 802.11g connections to run at 36 Mbps, 24 Mbps, or even lower. When dynamically set, these values become the new theoretical maximum speeds for that connection, which are even lower in practice due to the Wi-Fi protocol overhead.

About 108 Mbps Speed

Some wireless home networking products based on 802.11g and designated as Xtreme G and Super G network routers and adapters support 108 Mbps bandwidth. However, these products use proprietary extensions to the 802.11g standard to achieve higher performance. If a 108 Mbps product is connected to a standard 802.11g device, its performance falls back to the 54 Mbps maximum rate.

Why 802.11g Networks Run Slower Than 54 Mbps

Neither 54 Mbps or 108 Mbps numbers fully represent the true speed a person experiences on an 802.11g network. The 54 Mbps rating represents a theoretical maximum only. It includes a significant overhead from network protocol data that Wi-Fi connections must exchange for security and reliability purposes. The actual useful data exchanged on 802.11g networks always occurs at lower rates than 54 Mbps.