WiFi 6 Set to be the Next Generation in Wireless Networks

In addition to a new generation of WiFi, older wireless networks are getting an entirely new naming system.
Shelby Rogers

The naming announcement about wireless networks sounded more like a new Apple product, but it applies to something even more ubiquitous. However, WiFi’s decision to streamline its nomenclature is going to make it easier for consumers to tell if they’re buying the latest version of a router or wireless device.

Anyone familiar with buying a wireless router knows the name of that router just look like jumbled words and letters. Previous WiFi iterations were identified by a letter or two that referenced a wireless standard. For example, in 1999, your wireless devices might’ve had 802.11b or 802.11a on it.

But all of that is about to change, according to the WiFi Alliance. 

Easier naming for easier wireless solutions

The latest iterations of wireless devices aren’t the only ones changing. Old WiFi names will also be changed. The current WiFi hat came out in 2014 will be streamlined from 802.11ac to a clean WiFi 5.

This also makes the efficiency of these devices much clearer to a user. People won’t have to worry about if “ac” differs from “n”. They’ll be able to look at the device’s new label and see that the higher the number, the more efficient the system.

The new naming system does not mean newer devices will suddenly lose compatibility with older devices. For example, WiFi 5 will still connect with WiFi 4 devices, WiFi 4 to WiFi 3, and so on.


The naming change will also mean a slight adjustment to the interface visual. The WiFi Alliance explained the reasoning behind such a small change:

“Wi-Fi devices may also use a user interface (UI) icon on the display to identify the generation of a network connection. The icons will display a Wi-Fi signal indicator and a numerical representation of the connection. Icons will adjust as users move between Wi-Fi networks that provide a different user experience. When a user device displays a signal indicator icon accompanied by the number 6, indicating a Wi-Fi 6 connection, that device is utilizing the most advanced version of Wi-Fi available.”

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About WiFi 6 itself

So what of the latest iteration of WiFi 6? Is it just WiFi 5 with a new name? According to the WiFi Alliance, it’s a considerable upgrade. Benefits include higher data rates, a boost in capacity, and great performance even in crowded, people-dense environments. There’s also an improved power efficiency between WiFi and WiFi using devices, so your batteries will finally get a break while using WiFi 6.

WiFi 6 also comes with a handful of new capabilities. There’s a 1024-QAM to enable peak speeds for ‘bandwidth-intensive’ use cases. It has better medium access control (MAC) signaling to reduce latency, and a boost to outdoor network operations as well.

In short, WiFi 6 sounds like an improvement in performance as well as branding. While branding changes can get hairy, the new nomenclature and use of version numbers keep things more straightforward than remembering what letters and number combinations are associated with the latest WiFi iteration.