802.11a is a standard used under WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) and Ethernet. It is a wireless network protocol standard defined by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). 802.11a is part of a series developed to offer wireless connectivity for home, office, and commercial computing.

IEEE 802.11a wireless networks, theoretically, can sustain a maximum bandwidth of up to 54 Mbps. On the other hand, 802.11a performs better than its successor, 802.11b in terms of efficiency and capacity. Consequently, the APs (Access Points) and adapters accompanying 802.11a cost considerably more than the 802.11b complementary devices.

Radio transmission signals of 802.11a are in the frequency range of 5 GHz and higher. This span is ‘designated,’ which means that 802.11a machinery uses frequencies not used by other products like wireless home phones. In comparison, the 802.11b standard uses frequencies in the more-populated 2.4 GHz range thus, meeting more interference from other devices.

Due to the less availability of its more costly 5 GHz components, 802.11a devices reached the markets much slower than its 802.11b equivalents. Performance of the first generation 802.11a merchandise was poor and burdened with bugs. When the second wave of 802.11a products started to sell, the consumer market did not embrace the technology because the cheaper 802.11b was already in widespread use. 802.11a, however, penetrated enterprise network systems in spite of larger initial costs. This standard was more compatible with some networks, allowing greater capacity and increased reliability than that of 802.11b-driven networks.

Note that an 802.11a device’s signal is limited because it uses the high 5 GHz frequency, although network performance significantly improves and interference lessens. An 802.11a AP transmitter device may encompass less than a fourth of the area of a similar 802.11b device. Physical obstructions, such as brick walls, affect 802.11a networks at a higher degree than similar 802.11b networks.