This is the name given to the wireless networking standards by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the governing body for all networking standards. The IEEE has released a number of different standards over the years as wireless hardware has become faster. The original IEEE 802.11b standard only supported a maximum speed of 11 Mbps.
The more recent 802.11g and 802.11a standards support speeds of up to 54 Mbps. The major difference between 802.11a and 802.11g is that the 802.11g standard is backward compatible with the widely implemented 802.11b, while the 802.11a standard uses a different signaling method and is not backward compatible. As a result, 802.11a is not as popular. Most of the wireless hardware sold today is either 802.11b or 802.11g. For maximum compatibility and performance you should buy 802.11g compliant hardware.