Wi-Fi 6, 5, 4 ... New Wi-Fi Designations and Their Meanings

Wi-Fi Alliance has launched new designations for Wi-Fi. What is Wi-Fi 6 and 5 and what do these new names mean in practice?

It might be good to start by saying that the new designations do not actually replace the "old" descriptors in every way.

The standards themselves have not changed their names. The committee that develops Wi-Fi standards is still called IEEE 802.11, and the standards they provide will continue to have catchy names like "802.11ax".

The Wi-Fi Alliance does not control the standard, but the alliance controls its own product certification programs. And what they have launched is a set of more user-friendly designations for the products that support these standards. The figures refer to generations – 802.11ax is thus considered to be the sixth generation of Wi-Fi.

Graphics from the Wi-Fi Alliance with examples of how the Wi-Fi generations may be represented visually when connected to a wireless network.

One can safely assume that the new names and the standard names will be used interchangeably, but it is still not a mistake to say "ax" or "ac" about what is supported by a product.

The idea is also that new products should now be able to actively show the user what version of Wi-Fi technology is available when connecting to a wireless access point. You'll not only get a Wi-Fi signal on the task bar of your phone or PC, but also a number that indicates the maximum performance and functionality you can expect from the connection.

New certification nameTechnology standardFrequency bandNote
Wi-Fi 6802.11ax5 GHz and 2.4 GHzCurrently the latest standard. Wi-Fi Alliance started product certification of Wi-Fi 6 in September 2019, the final standard was approved in May 2021. Read more in Wi-Fi 6: What can we expect from 802.11 ax
Wi-Fi 6e6 GHz

Introduced with the Wi-Fi 6 certification, exclusively for products that support Wi-Fi on the 6 GHz frequency band. Read more here: Wi-Fi 6e: Internet on 6 GHz

Wi-Fi 5802.11ac5 GHzThis designation does not distinguish between the first ax products and the latest round that includes newer technologies, known as Wave 2.
Wi-Fi 4802.11n5 GHz and 2.4 GHz


Wi-Fi Alliance about Wi-Fi 6: https://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/wi-fi-certified-6

Article by Jorunn D. Newth

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