Forget 802.11ac: Wi-Fi standards just got simpler and a lot easier to understand

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Changes are afoot to make the names of Wi-Fi standards like 802.11ac easier to understand by simplifying them to a plain single number.

To that end, 802.11ac – which is used by the majority of contemporary routers – will be renamed just Wi-Fi 5, and the preceding generation 802.11n tech will be called Wi-Fi 4, as you could probably guess. The incoming 802.11ax next-gen Wi-Fi will be – wait for it – yes, Wi-Fi 6.

This is much more comprehensible for the average consumer to grasp – a simple generational label much along the lines of mobile networks being 3G, 4G and the incoming 5G.

This move comes courtesy of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which noted that the current designations are too convoluted and sound far too technical, which is true enough. After all, who really needs five numbers, a full-stop, and extra letters when it comes to naming a wireless standard?

With the new scheme of things, device manufacturers and operating system developers can slap a simple label on their respective products, meaning consumers can more easily tell at a glance which wireless standards are supported.

Name game

Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, commented: “For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi.

“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.”

Wi-Fi 6 (previously known as 802.11ax, as mentioned) is not only about improving speeds over Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) – although it will certainly be substantially faster – but it will also focus on ensuring better performance in environments with densely packed wireless signals, like blocks of apartments with routers aplenty.