The standards for wireless communication commonly referred to as "wifi" are developed and maintained by IEEE 802, which is a group governed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Therefore, the standards coming out of this group are referred to as 802.11, adding letters to the number as versioning.
"Wi-Fi" is really a trademark that denotes all products based on these standards.
From 2018, WiFi Alliance introduced 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|
|802.11be||Wi-Fi 7||The very first products have come to market in 2023. The standard is expected to be finalized in 2024, and certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance has not started as of October 2023. The standard spans all three frequency bands.|
Theoretical max speed: 46.1 Gbps
|Wi-Fi Alliance certification started September 2019, the earliest products were available in late 2018. Standard finalized mai 2021. |
Also referred to as "high efficiency wireless", the goal has been quadrupling throughput compared to 802.11ac.
This standard includes both 2.4, 5 and, for the first time, 6 GHz.
Theoretical top speed: 9.6 Gbps
Most Wi-Fi 6 products do not support 6 GHz. Wi-Fi 6E is a certification specifically for 6 GHz compatible products.
You can read more about 6 GHz wifi here.
More about what we expected from 802.11ax
|802.11ac||Wi-Fi 5||Adopted from 2014. Focus was on increased speed, and only the 5 GHz frequency band was included.|
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|
The first version of the standard to include both 2.4 and 5 GHz.
Theoretical top speed: 600 MbpsThis version also 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||Adopted from 2003.|
Only included the 2.4 GHz band.
Theoretical top speed: 54 Mbps
|802.11a and 802.11b||Adopted from 1999|
Theoretical top speeds:
802.11a: 54 Mbps (5 GHz)
802.11b: 11 Mbps (2.4 GHz)
These wireless data transfer standards are used over short distances, typically in smart homes and for wireless accessories.
|Bluetooth||Invented in 1994, now maintained by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Typically used for connecting wireless accessories like headsets and for synchronization between devices like smart watches, mobile phones, and laptops.|
See also: 10 things that interfere with and block wifi signals
|ZigBee||Often used for smart home devices such as light switches and other systems and functions that do not require a particularly high transmission capacity.|
|Z-Wave||Often used for smart home devices such as light switches and other systems and functions that do not require a particularly high transmission capacity.|
|802.11ah||Designed for slower speeds, longer distances, lower power consumption and smart devices / IoT.|
|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?
Article by Jorunn Danielsen