802.11ax, What? Confusing Wi-Fi Standards Will Soon Be History

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802.11ax, 802.11ac, 802.11n — though this may sound like a bunch of gibberish, it’s actually an important part of how your device connects to the internet.

The aforementioned numbers are generations of the Wi-Fi standard.

But if you don’t know what they are, you can probably see how it’d be hard to tell them apart.

And so the Wi-Fi Alliance, the group dedicated to overseeing these standards, is fixing that.

While the next-generation version of the Wi-Fi standard is called 802.11ax, the Wi-Fi Alliance is giving it a much easier moniker: Wi-Fi 6.

Wi Fi Generations

The previous generations, 802.11ac and 802.11n, will subsequently be called Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 4 respectively.

Generational Wi Fi

But rather than just being arbitrary numbers, these Wi-Fi generations actually mean faster data speeds and upgraded performance for you when you’re connected to a wireless network. It’s just like the yearly release of Unicode standards for emoji, or annually upgraded LTE technology.

Wi-Fi 6 will feature faster data rates and better performance in device dense environments like concerts or sports games. And notably, it’ll also sport improved energy efficiency — in other words, it’ll save some battery life on future smartphones when browsing the internet on a Wi-Fi network.

It’ll also help foster better connections for smart home setups or Internet of Things systems — as well as larger deployments of smart and IoT devices for businesses and firms.

But it’s the simplified naming scheme that’s likely garnering the most attention.

“For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical name conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi,” Wi-Fi Alliance President and CEO Edgar Figueroa said in a press release.

“Wi-Fi Alliance is excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection,” Figueroa added.

The Wi-Fi 6 standard is currently expected to be finalized next year, so it’ll be a while before it shows up in future iPhones.

If you’re curious about which Wi-Fi standard your own device supports, you can check the technical specifications of various Apple devices here. The Wi-Fi generation will be listed under the Cellular and Wireless heading.

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