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IEEE 802.11u is a standard for external networks. It is part of the greater 802.11u "family" of standards that governs the use of portable or mobile electronic devices in wireless network setups.
The specific standard dates back to early 2011.
One aspect of 802.11u relates to a generic access network (GAN), which handles points of access for mobile devices over an IP network.
In general, the IEEE 802.11u applies to the use of stand-alone devices in wireless local area networks (WLANs), which are commonly described as networks that use some kind of greater telecommunications component, rather than relying on a simple hardware setup consisting of cabled elements and routers.
More limited networks, by contrast, are called local access networks (LANs). The IEEE describes 802.11u as an amendment to the 802.11 standard that helped WLANs by enabling additional functionalities for overall end-to-end solutions.
This includes general ideas around data transfer and device access. IEEE 802.11u can have an impact on security rules for WiFi hotspots and other shared access points.