The Wi-Fi standard IEEE-802.11ax is expected to be released this year. The names of the standards will also change at the same time. The relatively complex 802.11ax will become Wi-Fi 6. In retrospect, the previous standards will also be given a new name, from the first Wi-Fi 1 (802.11) to the currently used Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
Wi-Fi or WLAN? What’s the difference?
Wi-Fi should not be confused with WLAN, although both terms are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) is the wireless network, whereas Wi-Fi is simply the certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance based on the IEEE 802.11 standard.
Typically, WLAN connections are based on the Wi-Fi standard. The term Wi-Fi thus actually refers to the consortium of companies (Wi-Fi Alliance) that certifies devices with wireless interfaces.
The term Wi-Fi was invented for marketing purposes and is at least officially not an abbreviation, whereby “Wi” certainly stands for “wireless”. Another theory is that the name Wi-Fi is a pun on Hi-Fi.
The new Wi-Fi 6
Since the launch of Wi-Fi 802.11 in 1997, the technology has continued to evolve. Wi-Fi 802.11ax with a frequency of 2.4 / 5 GHz is expected to be released by the end of this year. This technology, which follows 802.11ad (introduced in 2013), should be able to reduce the difference between the purely theoretical data transfer rate and the actual speed, and thus increase efficiency.
This is good news for those who often struggle with slow transfer speeds. More and more end devices require data via WLAN: smartphones, tablets, notebooks or game consoles. More and more data-intensive applications are being operated, such as streaming movies, series or podcasts, as well as graphically complex games.
Another disturbing factor is often added in multi-party houses: many routers send data simultaneously – often on the same frequency. This can lead to further impairments. A new, more powerful standard can therefore bring improvements, especially for heavy users and residents of larger multi-party houses.
All previous Wi-Fi standards and their features at a glance
|Designation||IEEE Standard||Published||Frequency||Maximum link rate||Range in meters|
|Wi-Fi 1||802.11||1997||2.4 GHz||2 MBit/s||20 indoor / 100 outdoor|
|Wi-Fi 2||802.11b||1999||2.4 GHz||11 MBit/s||38 indoor / 140 outdoor|
|Wi-Fi 3||802.11g||2003||2.4 GHz||54 MBit/s||38 indoor / 140 outdoor|
|Wi-Fi 4||802.11n||2009||2.4 / 5 GHz||72-600 MBit/s||70 indoor / 250 outdoor|
|Wi-Fi 5||802.11ac||2013||5 GHZ||433-6933 MBit/s||50 indoor / 200 outdoor|
|Wi-Fi 6||802.11ax||2019 (expected)||2.4 / 5 GHz||600-9608 MBit/s||not yet available|
Numbering of Wi-Fi types
The Wi-Fi Alliance has now developed a numbering system to make it easier and faster to distinguish between the individual standards. This makes it easier, especially for private users, to recognize which standard a device is using and what transmission speeds they can expect.
The newly released version 802.11ax will therefore be available as Wi-Fi 6. Some end devices are already theoretically compatible with this new technology, such as the Snapdragon 855, Qualcomm’s high-end SoC.
Dependence of Wi-Fi connection on various factors
As shown in the table, the maximum speeds and transfer rates are given there. In daily use, however, the speed depends on the end devices as well as on the room environment and the distance from the end device to the router.
Wi-Fi special cases
Wi-Fi 802.11ad – Wi-Fi for industry
In the new numbering table, Wi-Fi 802.11ad is left out – for two reasons: Unlike the other technologies, Wi-Fi 802.11ad is not backward compatible and uses the 60 GHz range.
Since this area is a niche development that is mainly used in industry and is therefore uninteresting for residential customers, Wi-Fi 802.11ad is not listed in the numbered table.
802.11h for positioning services
There is also the special case of Wi-Fi 802.11h: the technology does not play a role in practice for private customers. The extension of the 802.11a standard is mainly used for positioning services, satellite services and radar systems – i.e. where large transmission powers in outdoor areas play a decisive role.