There’s no denying it – the wireless network is the primary way we connect to the digital world. In fact, it’s so big, that traffic from wireless and mobile devices will account for 71% of total IP traffic by 2022, according to Cisco's Forecast and Trends for 2017-2022. But behind that wireless network is a mesh of complex technology, which to the general layman can be quite confusing.
So, here’s the good news for anyone who’s ever been confused by Wi-Fi naming conventions like 802.11ac, Wi-Fi now has version numbers to make them more user-friendly. 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 (released this year).
The Wi-Fi Alliance also announced that they recommend these numbers appear in software so you can tell which Wi-Fi network is better when connecting your device, which could lead to you seeing Wi-Fi numbers on your phone, tablet or laptop soon.
What does Wi-Fi 6 really bring?
The Wi-Fi Alliance says the key benefits include:
- Higher data rates: Wi-Fi 6 achieves speeds up to 4 times faster than previous Wi-Fi standards, improving the user experience and performance of bandwidth-hungry apps like voice, video, and collaboration.
- Increased capacity: As wireless demands increase and include more IoT devices, Wi-Fi 6 handles more data across the airways than previous Wi-Fi standards. It also handles more active clients per access point.
- Performance in environments with many connected devices: A more consistent and dependable network connection provides a seamless experience for clients, Internet of Things (IoT), and all apps, especially voice and video. This is a critical point – it’s more than just speed, but about improving the connectivity experience when many devices are connected.
- Improved power efficiency: The last upgrade for 2.4 GHz was 10 years ago. Wi-Fi 6 brings new improvements to the 2.4-GHz band that make your wireless work better with IoT devices that require more energy efficiency and better Wi-Fi coverage.
Sounds great for anyone who’s ever struggled with coverage at a public event. But what makes it really work? According to a recent Farpoint Group white paper, one of the key emerging themes with Wi-Fi 6 is concurrency. “Whereas Wi-Fi historically provisioned a serial connection between on a single transmitter and a single receiver on a given channel at a given moment in time, Wi-Fi 6 instead places the emphasis begun with Wi-Fi 5’s MU-MIMO on sharing and parallel/simultaneous access instead. The net result is precisely the optimal use of available capacity essential to meeting today’s – and tomorrow’s – traffic demands.”
It’s really an exciting time in the world of Wi-Fi, as it’s just getting better… If you’d like to learn more about Wi-Fi 6 and its important role in the future of wireless connectivity, download this informative white paper from Farpoint Group.