The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has approved a new standard for wireless Local Area Networks (LANs) operating in the 2.4GHz band called 802.11g.

The new standard could boost speeds of existing, widely installed wireless LANs from 11Mbps to as much as 54Mbps.

The IEEE oversees development of the standard - also called Wi-Fi. Apple utilizes 802.11b in its AirPort range of wireless networking solutions. Apple announced AirPort 2 last week. Now, Intersil plans to be the first company to produce chip sets that operate at the higher speeds.

Gregory Williams, president of Intersil, said in a statement that the new standard represents a "huge win" for the wireless industry because it is "backwards compatible" with existing 802.11b wireless LANs, which have an installed base of 11 million users.

Critical step Matthew Shoemake, chairman of the IEEE high data-rate study group and manager of research and development for the wireless networking business unit at Dallas-based Texas Instruments, called 802.11g the next critical step to insure "quick adoption of a higher data-rate standard".

Products based on the 802.11g standard will compete with new wireless LAN systems introduced at Comdex 2001 this week by Intel and Proxim – which also deliver 54Mbps under the 802.11a standard – as well as technologies trademarked Wi-Fi5 by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance. That standard operates in the 5GHz unlicensed spectrum band.

Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing, said users trying to determine which wireless standard to use should keep in mind that they could encounter interference in the 2.4GHz band used by Bluetooth short-range wireless devices, as well as products based on 802.11b and 802.11g.

The proliferation of wireless standards should mean price breaks for products operating under the 802.11b standard, which has already attained economies of scale, Reiter said.