802.11b is one of several Wi-Fi standards developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It was released in 1999 along with 802.11a as the first update to the initial 802.11 specification, published in 1997. Both 802.11a and 802.11b are wireless transmission standards for local area networks, but 802.11a uses a 5 GHz frequency, while 802.11b operates on a 2.4 GHz band.
The 802.11b Wi-Fi standard provides a wireless range of roughly 35 meters indoors and 140 meters outdoors. It supports transfer rates up to 11 Mbps, or 1.375 megabytes per second. In the late 1990s, this was significantly faster than Internet speeds available to most homes and businesses. Therefore, the speed was typically only a limitation for internal data transfers within a network. While 802.11b provided similar data transfer rates as 10Base-T Ethernet, it was slower than newer wired LAN standards, such as 100Base-T and Gigabit Ethernet.
In 2003, the IEEE published the 802.11g standard, which provides wireless transfer rates of up to 54 Mbps. 802.11g consolidated the previous 802.11 "a" and "b" specifications into a single standard that was backward-compatible with 802.11b devices. Most Wi-Fi devices used 802.11g throughout the 2000s until the 802.11n standard was published in 2009.
Updated: March 20, 2019