Was reading some coverage from the Consumer Electronics Show a few days ago and now companies are saying they support the new “Wi-Fi 6 Standard”. What’s Wi-Fi 6?
While I’m tempted to answer by saying something snarky about standards and why we should have new ones every week, the fact is that I believe the Wi-Fi standards group has been learning from Bluetooth about naming conventions. Think about it; Wi-Fi is based on what’s known as the 802.11 standard and instead of even doing something as simple as a,b,c,d, we have a completely cryptic set of standards known as 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n then the aX standards, ranging from 802.11ac to ax (tho not every letter is represented).
The end result is that us consumers are left scratching our heads, trying to figure out if a modem, smart home device or laptop is going to have the best possible wireless performance given our home or office setup. Is 802.11n better than 802.11ac? And what’s 802.11ax, the very latest standard that hasn’t even actually been fully specified and published yet? (Note: to make your head really spin, there’s a draft 802.11ay standard being developed too, even though “ax” isn’t out yet!)
Remember that this is all different from the 2.4 Ghz versus 5 Ghz question for wi-fi, and “additional bands between 1 and 7 GHz as they become available”. Yikes. Fortunately this is easily explained: the frequency of the network generally is related to throughput: higher frequency offers faster throughput. The protocol of the network (e.g., 802.11g) is what the connection ‘speaks’ at that particular frequency.
Complicated. Confusing. So the Wi-Fi Alliance has decided to start giving these wireless network standards a new naming scheme, and just in time! So the first spec they have given a name is version 6 (which kinda makes sense if Wi-Fi 1 is b, Wi-Fi 2 is g, Wi-Fi 3 is n, Wi-Fi 4 is ac and Wi-Fi 5 is, um, I don’t actually know what that would be, but sure, we’ll go with ‘6’ for the latest spec).
In a nutshell, the move to calling 802.11ax “Wi-Fi 6” is a really good one for us consumers. It will help tame the confusing thicket of protocols that exist as we create faster and faster wireless networks. Now let’s just hope they can stick with the naming scheme and not devolve into the Bluetooth “dot” releases (e.g., Bluetooth 4.2 instead of just calling that update Bluetooth 5.0).
Got it? There’ll be a quiz so I hope you were paying attention. 🙂
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