Wi-Fi 6: What’s Different, and Why it Matters

Wi-Fi 6: What’s Different, and Why it Matters 1

Wi-Fi 6 is the next-generation wireless standard that’s faster than 802.11ac. More than speed, it will provide better performance in congested areas, from stadiums to your own device-packed home. It’s coming in 2019.

Update: Wi-Fi 6 certification began on September 16, 2019. That’s a big sign that hardware is on the way! For example, Apple’s new iPhone 11 devices will support Wi-Fi 6 when they launch on September 20.

Wi-Fi Has Version Numbers Now

Wi-Fi 6: What’s Different, and Why it Matters 2
Wi-Fi Alliance visuals for device manufacturers.

Yes, Wi-Fi now has version numbers! Even those old confusing Wi-Fi standard names like “802.11ac” have been renamed to user-friendly names like “Wi-Fi 5.”

Here are the versions of Wi-Fi you’ll  be seeing:

  • Wi-Fi 4 is 802.11n, released in 2009.
  • Wi-Fi 5 is 802.11ac, released in 2014.
  • Wi-Fi 6 is the new version, also known as 802.11ax. It’s scheduled for release in 2019.

The Wi-Fi Alliance also announced would like to see these numbers appear in software so you can tell which Wi-Fi network is newer and faster while connecting on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. You may be seeing Wi-Fi numbers on your phone, tablet, or laptop soon.

Older versions of Wi-Fi aren’t widely in use and aren’t officially being branded. But, if they were, here’s what they’d be called:

  • Wi-Fi 1 would have been 802.11b, released in 1999.
  • Wi-Fi 2 would have been 802.11a, also released in 1999.
  • Wi-Fi 3 would have been 802.11g, released in 2003.

Faster Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6: What’s Different, and Why it Matters 3

As usual, the latest Wi-Fi standard offers faster data transfer speeds. If you’re using a Wi-Fi router with a single device, maximum potential speeds should be up to 40% higher with Wi-Fi 6 compared to Wi-Fi 5.

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