Is 802.11a Dead Before It Even Begins?
We as consumers are stuck in a quandary. We want wireless. We don't want it to be prohibitively expensive, and we want it to be fully baked. 802.11 unfortunately is not.Wireless networking keeps getting better and better. 802.11a-based devices are more than fast enough for most applications. And assuming you can find them and stomach the possibility that theyll be obsolete by years end, youll be a happy camper. The newest 802.11a devices are just as polished as the 802.11b on the market. They should be, since the IEEE ratified the standards at the same time. In fact, the specifications are fundamentally the same, except that 802.11a devices are much faster (54M bps compared with 11M bps) and run at a higher frequency (5GHz compared with 2.4GHz). (For my Jan. 14 review of early 802.11a equipment, go to www.eweek.com/links.)
But 802.11a devices also face the same security issues inherent in 802.11b, namely the weakness of WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). The "a" devices crank up the encryption to 152-bit levels, but this doesnt get around the key concern that WEP was intended to keep transmissions private and not to restrict access to the network. Unfortunately, WEP isnt even good at keeping transmissions private without vendor enhancements.