The standards for wireless communication commonly referred to as "Wi-Fi" are developed and maintained by IEEE 802, a group governed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Therefore, the standards are referred to as 802.11, using letters after the number as versioning.
Wi-Fi is essentially a brand name that denotes all products based on these standards.
From 2018, Wi-Fi Alliance has begun to introduce new names to the public Wi-Fi standards to make the differences easier to understand for users. "Wi-Fi 4" should be understood as fourth generation Wi-Fi while "Wi-Fi 6" is sixth generation The higher the number, the newer the technology and higher possible speeds.
|Standard||Also known as||Description|
|802.11ax||Wi-Fi 6||Finally ratified and published by the standards body IEEE in May 2021. Certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance from September 2019, and the very first products hit the markets late in 2018. |
Also called "High efficiency wireless", the goal has been to quadruple throughput compared to 802.11ac.
Read more about what we expect from 802.11ax
|802.11ah||Designed for slower speeds, longer distances, lower power consumption and IoT devices.|
|802.11ad||In use from 2016.|
Uses the 60 GHz band and is intended to replace cables between the TV, decoders, projectors and so on – aiming for high speeds over short distances.
Theoretical top speed: approx. 7 Gbps
See also: Experts respond: New wireless standard--what can we expect from 802.11ad?
|802.11ac||Wi-Fi 5||In use from 2014. Focus on increased speed.|
Theoretical top speed: 6.9 Gbps.
The standard is backwards compatible with 802.11n
See also: 802.11ac Wave 2: What's New?
|802.11n or an||Wi-Fi 4||In use from 2009|
Top speed: 600 Mbps
Introduced MIMO, Multiple Input Multiple Output data, where multiple antennas are used to streamline communication between transmitter and receiver without requiring higher bandwidth or more transmit capacity.
|802.11g||In use from 2003|
Top speed: 54 Mbps
|802.11a and 802.11b||In use from 1999|
802.11a: 54 Mbps
You can read more about Wi-Fi standards and how Wi-Fi has evolved here:
These wireless data transfer standards are used over short distances.
|Bluetooth||Invented in 1994, now maintained by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Typically used for wireless synchronization and transmission between personal computer equipment and mobile phones.|
See also: 10 things that interfere with and block Wi-Fi signals
|ZigBee||Often used for "Internet of Things" devices such as light switches and other systems and functions that do not require a particularly high transmission capacity.|
|Z-Wave||Often used for "Internet of Things" devices such as light switches and other systems and functions that do not require a particularly high transmission capacity.|
Article by Jorunn D. Newth