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Wi-Fi 6 is the next big upgrade to wireless networks

ASUS router
ASUS router (Image credit: Android Central)

Wi-Fi is something we all use each and every day, but with crazy names such as 802.11n and 802.11ac, it can be difficult to remember which standard is better than another. When the next generation of Wi-Fi arrives (802.11ax), it'll go by a much simpler name — Wi-Fi 6.

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced this change on Wednesday, October 3, saying:

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.

Looking back at older generations of Wi-Fi, their new naming goes as follows:

  • 802.11b is now Wi-Fi 1
  • 802.11a is now Wi-Fi 2
  • 802.11g is now Wi-Fi 3
  • 802.11n is now Wi-Fi 4
  • 802.11ac is now Wi-Fi 5

The first Wi-Fi 6 devices are expected to arrive at some point next year and offer increased speed and better handling of multiple connections at once compared to Wi-Fi 5.

What do you think of the new naming scheme?

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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

21 Comments
  • I am not sure it is a great name. But at least it will be easier for non tech customers to understand the difference.
  • Non-tech customers still won't know the difference, it'll just be easier for them to say.
  • Well, higher number = newer. So, while yes they don't know the difference they should know what is newer.
  • K. I. S. S.
  • Exactly what I thought!
  • We all use wifi? LMAO not everyone
  • I think I like it... Being very techy myself, I prefer 802.11XX, but most people don't understand the difference or which is better than which.
    Even if they are not very much used anymore, most people would think "b" is better than "a", but no!
  • I don't like that they used 6. Non-techies are still getting used to IPv6. I believe this will cause further confusion. Do I need WiFi-6 to use IPv6 and similar type questions will be coming. I'm all for simplifying but I think they could have chosen better.
  • I think most non-techies won't even know that is a question. Also, it's purely iterative naming. As it's the 6th generation, it's 6. The one that stands out is why 11a is 2 and 11b is 1.
  • I'm holding out for the WiFi 6s Plus.
  • 😂
  • 👍
  • The "802" part of the name refers to February, 1980, which is when the Ethernet standards were first accepted. So that naming convention has been in place for close to 40 years.
  • They could have just called it AX and everyone would know it's the latest and greatest.
  • From my experience, they won't. Sure, anyone that follows the standards or deals with wifi/computers regularly would know. I work tech support for an ISP, and customers never know what it means. Sometimes someone will be told something to repeat, but that's about it.
  • Let's go with that. Nothing beats simple.
  • Oh dear, if in doubt, dumb it down.
  • Wasn't there an 802.11AD that came after 802.11AC?
    How the hell did they jump all the way to AX?
  • If you actually want to know, check out the wiki for the 802.11 standards or another similar site on it. The basics, AD is called WiGig and on the 60Ghz spectrum. There are a handful of other amendments listed, so it's not like they just skipped over it all to get to AX. AX is just the next officially supported revision.
  • Most people don't care or don't understand anything about wifi. They always have just 1 question: is it faster? However, I don't think the reasoning is for clarity. I think it's is about marketing.
    If my in-laws are at Best Buy shopping for a new router because their old Netgear 802.11a/b router sh** the bed, they will see that 6 must be better than 5. Regardless of whether or not any of their devices support it.
  • You are right about that🙃.