The IEEE802 standards are concerned with metropolitan areas networks (MAN) and local area networks (LAN). The number 802 has no significance other than being the number that was available to assign to this particular area of study. The networks are defined as those that carry variable-sized packets. These networks include Ethernet networks, some forms of wireless communications, Bluetooth and more. There are other types of networks that are slated to be added to the definition, but that have not as of yet. This area of networking does not cover cellular phone networks.
IEEE802 is one of the most commonly listed standards for electronic components in the current marketplace. The networking requirements for businesses and home users demand that standardized equipment that is guaranteed to function on specific types of networks be available, and the 802 standards provide that guarantee.
IEEE802 defines the working standards for a range of wireless and wired networking technologies. They include:
- Token Bus
- Broadband LAN
- Fiber Optic Tag
- Interoperable LAN security
- Wireless LAN
- Broadband Wireless Access
- Mobile Broadband Wireless
- Emergency Services Working Group
The areas that are defined are differentiated by an additional number following the 802 designation. For example, Wi-Fi is covered under IEEE 802.11, a designation seen on the cases of most wireless routers and other hardware.
In some cases, there may be slight differences in the various designations, which are still close enough that a single device might conform to all of them. This is common in the case of wireless routers, which typically carry designations such as 802.11b/802.11n and so forth. Those designations show that the device in question conforms with both the “b” and “n” interactions of 802.11 standards. This may be important in some situations, such as when providing connectivity to a LAN that has client machines that conform to slightly different standards due to age or different hardware.
Some working groups are concerned with interoperability and may cover more than one standard. For example, the IEEE 802.15.2 working group handles issues related to 802.15 and 802.11 coexistence.
It is important to differentiate between the terms used in these working groups so that their areas of concern can be more specifically understood. For example, 802.11 convers Wireless LAN and Mesh, including Wi-Fi, but not Bluetooth, which is handled under the 802.15.1 working group. The IEEE provides current information as to what working groups are still in operation, what they cover and even those working groups that have already been disbanded or that have not yet been ratified.
The 802.13 working group is not yet formed, though it has already been set aside for Fast Ethernet.