This list will summarize the 802.11 standards that have been rolled out over time.  A quick bit of trivia: the number 802 comes from the first working group formed in the second (02) month (February) of 1980.  The family of wireless specifications that we have affectionately come to know as “802.11” was first released in 1997 – the same year NASA’s Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars.

When creating new specifications, an uppercase letter is used to designate a standalone standard. 802.1X is a classic example, and additional standalone standards include 802.11F and 802.11T.  A lower-case letter is used to designate an amendment that expands or enhances an existing parent standard but does not stand on its own.

Some letters are specifically excluded from use by the IEEE that can easily be confused with numbers, such as “l” and “o”.  While not explicitly excluded, 802.11x is not an official amendment and was most likely skipped due to occasional use as shorthand to represent a broad set of amendments (such as 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac, 802.11ax, or 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax) with a single character.  The former was an attempt at efficiency; however, some incorrectly write 802.11X to refer to a non-existent standard when 802.1X was the intended reference.  For those wondering, 802.1X is a specification for encapsulation of the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) over 802.11.  The latest rollup of 802.1X is the 802.1X-2010 standard.

802.11m is reserved for standard maintenance, with 802.11ma completed for inclusion in 802.11-2007, 802.11mb for 802.11-2012, 802.11mc for 802.11-2016, and 802.11md for 802.11-2020.

Some task groups are assigned letters, but the TG was cancelled before publishing and therefore some letters are missing from the “alphabet soup”.

802.11-1997 IEEE Standard for Wireless LAN Medium Access Control MAC and Physical Layer PHY Specifications (often called 802.11 “prime” [possibly as a tribute to Optimus Prime, although unlikely]).  Features such as FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) and IRSS (Infrared Spread Spectrum) along with the original data rates of 1 & 2 Mbps were specified.  And yes, there is still hardware in production that supports only 802.11 “prime”.  Don’t ask me how I know…

802.11-1999 – Part II IEEE Standard for Wireless LAN Medium Access Control MAC and Physical Layer PHY Specifications

802.11a – Defined OFDM usage in 5 GHz with data rates up to 54 Mbps (1999)

802.11b – Defined HR/DSSS usage in 2.4 GHz adding data rates of 5.5 & 11 Mbps (1999)

802.11c – Defined MAC bridging for 802.11.  Was later incorporated into 802.1D (MAC Bridges) (2001)

802.11d – Defined operation in new regulatory domains to support country-to-country roaming (2001)

802.11e – Defined MAC enhancements QoS adding 4 buckets called access categories (AC): voice, video, best effort, and background [~WMM] (2005)

802.11F – Defined Inter-Access Point Protocol (IAPP) for interoperability between different vendor products but was later withdrawn (2003)

802.11g – Defined ERP PHY usage in 2.4 GHz with data rates up to 54 Mbps (2003)

802.11h – Defined spectrum management of 802.11a on 5 GHz for European compatibility (2003)

802.11i – Defined security enhancements using TKIP, CCMP, and use of 802.1X [~WPA/WPA2] (2004)

802.11j – Defined use of 4.9 GHz for operation in Japan (2004)

802.11-2007 – Standard Maintenance Revision of 802.11-1999 along with the following amendments – a,b,c,d,e,g,h,i, and j

802.11k – Defined radio resource measurement enhancements (2008)

802.11l – unassigned – reserved character

802.11m – “reserved” for maintenance release (e.g. 802.11ma/mb/mc/md)

802.11n – Defined HT using 2.4 and 5 GHz; 20/40 MHz channels; and introduced MIMO [Wi-Fi 4] (2009) 

802.11o – unassigned – reserved character

802.11p – Defined WAVE (Wireless Access for the Vehicular Environment (2010)

802.11q – unassigned – likely skipped to avoid confusion with 802.1Q

802.11r – Defined Fast BSS transition (FTT) (2008)

802.11s – Defined mesh networking. Yes, mesh has a place in WLANs (2011)

802.11T – Defined WPP (Wireless Performance Prediction) test methods and metrics (apparently standardized WLAN device testing is a beast that cannot be tamed…) (CANCELLED)

802.11u – Defined improvements for 3rd-party authorization of clients [~Hotspot/Passpoint2.0] (2011)

802.11v – Defined wireless network management allowing infrastructure to offer roaming suggestions to clients (2011)

802.11w – Defined protected management frames (PMF) (2009)

802.11x – unassigned – often used as wildcard to represent multiple 802.11 amendments simultaneously (e.g. 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax), also likely skipped to avoid confusion with 802.1X

802.11y – Defined 3650-3700 MHz operation in the US; this is NOT CBRS (2008)

802.11z – Defined extensions to DLS (Direct Link Setup) (2010)

802.11-2012 – Standard Maintenance Revision of 802.11-1999 along with the following amendments – k,n,p,r,s,u,v,y, and z

802.11aa – Defined robust streaming of Audio/Video Transport Streams (SRP) (2012)

802.11ab – unassigned, likely to avoid confusion when expressing 802.11a & 802.11b as 802.11ab

802.11ac – Defined Very High Throughput (VHT) on 5 GHz; 80/160 MHz channels; and introduced MU-MIMO (dl only) [Wi-Fi 5] (2013)

802.11ad – Defined short range Very High Throughput (VHT) on 60 GHz [~WiGig] (2012)

802.11ae – Defined QoS enhancements to prioritize management frames (2012)

802.11af – Define TV whitespace (2014)

802.11-2016 – Standard Maintenance Revision of 802.11-2012 along with the following amendments – ae,aa,ad,ac,af, and mc

802.11ag – unassigned, likely to avoid confusion by combining 802.11a/g

802.11ah – Defined sub-1 GHz license exempt operation (sensor/metering) [~Halow] (2016)

802.11ai – Defined Fast Link Setup (FLS) (2016)

802.11aj – Defined Millimeter Wave in China (2018)

802.11ak – Defined transit links within bridged networks (2018)

802.11aq – Defined pre-association discovery (2018)

802.11-2020 – Standard Maintenance Revision of 802.11-2016 along with the following amendments – ai,ah,aj,ak,aq, and md

802.11ax – Defined High Efficiency (HE); introduced OFDMA (ul/dl); MU-MIMO (ul/dl) across the 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz ranges [~Wi-Fi 6/6E] (2021)

802.11ay – Defined next generation in 60 GHz (2021)

802.11ba – Defined Wake Up Radio (2021)

The following task groups are in active process:

802.11az – Next Generation Positioning

802.11bb – Light Communications

802.11bc – Enhanced Broadcast Service

802.11bd – Enhancements for Next Generation V2X

802.11be – Extremely High Throughput (EHT)

802.11bf – WLAN sensing

802.11bg – unassigned, likely to avoid confusion by combining 802.11b/g

802.11bh – Randomized and Changing MAC Addresses

802.11bi – Enhanced Data Privacy

802.11me – Accumulated maintenance changes, targeted for inclusion in 802.11-2024 

Slàinte!

References

Official IEEE 802.11 working group project timelines

IEEE Standards Development Project Authorization Request (PAR) Numbering Policy

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