WLANs share a similar origin with Ethernet LANs. The IEEE has adopted the 802 LAN/MAN portfolio of computer network architecture standards. The two dominant 802 working groups are 802.3 Ethernet and 802.11 WLAN. However, there are important differences between the two.

WLANs use RF instead of cables at the physical layer and MAC sublayer of the data link layer. In comparison to cable, RF has the following characteristics:

WLANs also differ from wired LANs as follows: