Understanding the many layers of WiFi has been fairly confusing. You would see 802.11 followed by various letters. The generations didn’t go in alphabetical order so you had to dig a little deeper to figure out which technology was the newest and whether your devices could use it. The Wi-Fi Alliance decided to simplify things by given the technology a version number.

Let’s first look at what’s new with the following bulleted list coming from the WiFi Certified 6 page.

Key capabilities:

  • Uplink and downlink orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) increases efficiency and lowers latency for high demand environments
  • Multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) allows more data to be transferred at one time, enabling access points (APs) to handle larger numbers of devices simultaneously
  • Transmit beamforming enables higher data rates at a given range to increase network capacity
  • 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) increases throughput for emerging, bandwidth-intensive use cases
  • Target wake time (TWT) significantly improves battery life in Wi-Fi devices, including IoT clients

I admit, that list is full of tech heavy verbage and each of the features may still be confusing. In short, it will incorporate previous features and adds some new ones to make it faster and more powerful.

Now let’s look at the new names and their previous names.

  • Wi-Fi 6 identifies devices that support 802.11ax technology
  • Wi-Fi 5 identifies devices that support 802.11ac technology
  • Wi-Fi 4 identifies devices that support 802.11n technology

While it may be confusing to know exactly what each version supports, the name is at least a lot easier to remember and the version numbers indicate what is newest.


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