The Most Common Wi-Fi Standards and Types in Use


Wi-Fi is a relatively general term, but in one sense it’s very precise. It explains the specific method you can use to connect to the Internet. Are you confused by the different Wi-Fi standards in use? Here’s what you need to know about Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and older wireless standards.


The Most Common Wi-Fi Standards and Types in Use




We use the Internet for numerous activities. Some don’t require fast speeds, but others do. For instance, downloading large files and gaming are very demanding. Basic web browsing, checking emails, and streaming – especially streaming HD videos, such as sports events or live gambling sessions by the best Spribe casino sites in 2024 and other notable operators – need a medium-strong Internet speed (e.g. 25 Mbps), while streaming music and video conferencing are low-demanding. Now, even if your access connection can handle very high speeds, you won’t get optimal Internet performance if your Wi-Fi connection is unreliable. Here’s where we come to today’s topic.


There are many different types of Wi-Fi standards. Your router, laptop, tablet, smartphone, and smart home devices use different wireless standards to connect to the Internet. Wireless standards also change every few years. Updates bring faster Internet, better and more stable connections, more simultaneous connections, etc., but the sheer number of wireless standards and specifications is confusing. In the rest of the text, we’ll explain them to you and hopefully eliminate the dilemmas and answer the questions you have.


What Are Wi-Fi Standards?

Wireless standards are a set of services and protocols that determine how your Wi-Fi network (and other data networks) work.

The most common wireless standards you’ll encounter are IEEE 802.11 wireless local area network (WLAN) and mesh network. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – a professional organization that develops international standards for a variety of sectors; it’s dedicated to the fields of electrical, electronics, and related subjects) updates the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard every few years. As of this writing, the most widely used Wi-Fi standard is 802.11ac, while the next generation Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax (also known as Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E – but more on that later), is being introduced, albeit slower than experts predicted.

Now, the generation after 802.11ax is coming, with IEEE 802.11be announced to launch around 2024/2025 (using the name Wi-Fi 7). Before you ask, yes, Wi-Fi 8 is in development, currently using the name IEEE 802.11bn, but it’s not expected to launch before 2028, and it’s likely to be several years after that, given how Wi-Fi launches tend to be slow to roll out and adopt.


A Brief History of Wireless Standards


Not all old Wi-Fi standards are obsolete. At least they aren’t yet. Here’s a brief history of Wi-Fi standards and information on whether the standards are still active.

  • IEEE 802.11: The original standard. This now obsolete standard was created in 1997 and supported a maximum connection speed of 54 Mbps. Devices using this standard haven’t been manufactured for over a decade and won’t work with today’s equipment.
  • IEEE 802.11a: Created in 1999, this version of Wi-Fi operates on the 5 GHz frequency band. This is done with the hope that less interference will be encountered since many devices (like most cordless phones) also use the 2.4 GHz band; 802.11a is quite fast, with maximum data rates of 54 Mbps, but the 5 GHz frequency has difficulty with objects in the signal’s path, so range is often poor.
  • IEEE 802.11b: Also created in 1999, this standard uses the more typical 2.4 GHz band and can reach a maximum speed of 11 Mbps; 802.11b was the standard that sparked the popularity of Wi-Fi.
  • IEEE 802.11g: Designed in 2003, the 802.11g standard increased the maximum data transfer rate to 54 Mbps while maintaining the reliable 2.4 GHz band. This resulted in widespread adoption of the standard.
  • IEEE 802.11n: Introduced in 2009, this version had a slow initial success; 802.11n operates at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supports multi-channel use, and offers a maximum data transfer rate of 150 Mbps per channel, which means a maximum data transfer rate of 600 Mbps.
  • IEEE 802.11ac: The ac standard is what you’ll find on most wireless devices at the time of writing. Originally released in 2014, ac significantly increases data throughput for Wi-Fi devices to a maximum of 1,300 Mbps. In addition, ac adds support for MU-MIMO, additional Wi-Fi broadcast channels for the 5 GHz band, and support for multiple antennas on one router.
  • IEEE 802.11ax: Next in line for your router and wireless devices is the ax standard. As 802.11ax is implemented, you’ll have access to a theoretical network throughput of 10 Gbps—about a 30-40 percent improvement over the ac standard. In addition, the wireless ax will increase network capacity by adding broadcast sub-channels, upgrading MU-MIMO, and enabling more simultaneous data streams.
  • IEEE 802.11be: Although the specifications for 802.11be aren’t yet final, it’s very likely to become the successor to 802.11ax. According to IEEE Xplore documentation, 802.11be will provide doubled bandwidth and an increased number of spatial streams, which together enable data rates of up to 40 Gbps, as announced.

As previously mentioned, the Wi-Fi 8 standard is under development, and its official name is currently IEEE 802.11bn.


Are All Wi-Fi Devices Compatible?


Two devices using the same Wi-Fi standard can communicate without restrictions. Problems arise, however, when you try to connect two devices that use different, potentially incompatible wireless standards.

  • Your router and devices that use 802.11ac can communicate without problems.
  • Devices that use 802.11b, g, and n can communicate with a router that uses ac.
  • 11b can’t communicate with a, and vice versa.
  • 11g can’t communicate with b, and vice versa.

The original 1997 standard (now known as 802.11 legacy) is obsolete, while standards a and b are slowly reaching the end of their useful life. So yes, most Wi-Fi devices are compatible, but there are some weird details in the standard. In particular, when you buy a new device, you’ll know that it will be compatible with your current router. But this may not be the case if you have an older router that uses an older Wi-Fi standard.


For example, if you bring home a new router that uses 802.11ac to extend Wi-Fi to every corner of the apartment or house, it doesn’t mean that your old device can suddenly use the ac standard. You’ll receive some benefits from that router, such as increased range, but your connection will only be as fast as a standard Wi-Fi device.

If your device uses 802.11n, it will only connect and transmit via the n standard.


What’s Wi-Fi 6?


Compatibility with older Wi-Fi standards is important, but what about the Wi-Fi standards we currently use and the Wi-Fi standards yet to come?

Wi-Fi is the wireless standard naming system of the Wi-Fi Alliance. The Wi-Fi Alliance claims the 802.11 terminology is confusing for consumers. And they are right; updating a letter or two doesn’t give users much information to work with.

The Wi-Fi Alliance naming system works concurrently with the IEEE 802.11 convention. Here’s how the naming standards match up:

  • Wi-Fi 7: 11be (2024/2025)
  • Wi-Fi 6E: 11ax (2021)
  • Wi-Fi 6: 11ax (2019)
  • Wi-Fi 5: 11ac (2014)
  • Wi-Fi 4: 11n (2009)
  • Wi-Fi 3: 11g (2003)
  • Wi-Fi 2: 11a (1999)
  • Wi-Fi 1: 11b (1999)
  • Legacy: 11 (1997)


What’s Wi-Fi 6E?


Wi-Fi 6 became the widely accepted Wi-Fi standard in 2020. However, by the end of that same year, another “new” standard began to develop. Wi-Fi 6E is an extension of the Wi-Fi 6 standard. The update allows your Wi-Fi connection to broadcast over the new 6GHz band.

Previously, all Wi-Fi connections were limited to two bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Those two frequency bands are occupied, and each band is divided into smaller channels. For example, if you live in a multi-apartment building, many Wi-Fi routers may try to broadcast on the same frequency, using the same channel.

This doesn’t mean that your data will end up on your neighbor’s computer. That’s not how the modern Internet works. However, this can cause Wi-Fi performance issues, especially in busy areas.

Wi-Fi 6E creates 14 new 80MHz channels and seven 160MHz channels, significantly increasing the available network capacity for users. Users in densely populated areas will have significantly more available bandwidth, which reduces Wi-Fi interference. In short, Wi-Fi 6E effectively quadruples the space available to your Wi-Fi connection.

So, when can you get a new router that supports Wi-Fi 6E? The first devices with Wi-Fi 6E started appearing in 2021, with Netgear being one of the first manufacturers to put it on the market. There are now many excellent routers with Wi-Fi 6E support that you can buy to increase the speed of your Wi-Fi connection.


What’s Wi-Fi 7?


You’ve just unpacked your Wi-Fi 6E router, and people on online forums are already talking about the Wi-Fi 7 standard. But you don’t have to worry about the next generation of Wi-Fi just yet because the official Wi-Fi 7 specification isn’t yet final. The IEEE is expected to finalize the Wi-Fi 7 specifications in early 2024, which means we probably won’t see devices using Wi-Fi 7 before 2025.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t consider Wi-Fi 7 features:

  • Increased bandwidth and speed: Wi-Fi 7 is designed to reach maximum bandwidths of up to 40 Gbps and 46 Gbps, more than three times faster than the 9.6 Gbps provided by Wi-Fi 6.
  • 320 MHz channels: Wi-Fi 7 will support wider bandwidths up to 320 MHz, compared to the maximum 160 MHz of Wi-Fi 6. This allows for more efficient data transfer and significantly increases bandwidth.
  • Multilink Operation (MLO): This feature allows devices to transmit and receive data simultaneously over multiple frequency bands. MLO can improve reliability and reduce latency by switching between bands depending on network conditions. MLO is a very exciting development for Wi-Fi 7, allowing devices to connect to multiple bands and significantly increase data transfer potential.
  • Higher-order modulation: Wi-Fi 7 is expected to support 4096-QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), a step above the 1024-QAM used in Wi-Fi 6. In short, more data can be transmitted with each signal, increasing the overall rate of data transfer and speeding up internet connections.

As we said, the final specification of Wi-Fi 7 hasn’t been finalized, but we can assume that these specifications will be similar to the final product.


What’s Wi-Fi 8?


Wi-Fi 7 hasn’t even started official use yet, and we’re already talking about the Wi-Fi 8 standard. Most of the talk about the Wi-Fi 8 standard is theoretical; there’s no official specification for Wi-Fi 8 yet, and there’s no leaked or official information yet. However, Wi-Fi 8 is likely to focus on a few key areas that will make Wi-Fi (even) faster:


  • Increased bandwidth and speed: We’d expect Wi-Fi 8 to massively increase Wi-Fi speeds, potentially reaching up to 100 Gbps as a theoretical maximum (again, sounds amazing, but actual speeds are likely to be slower).
  • Larger Wi-Fi channels: Given previous generational increases, it’s likely that Wi-Fi 8 will bring larger Wi-Fi channels, allowing for greater data throughput.
  • Integration of new bands: While nothing is certain, some analysis suggests that Wi-Fi 8 may include new, different Wi-Fi bands in its specification. For example, Wi-Fi Now notes that there’s a lot of discussion about including higher frequency bands like 60 GHz in the 802.11bn standard, which would allow Wi-Fi 8 access to millimeter waves and, as such, extremely fast speeds.


As said, it’s all theoretical, but Wi-Fi 8 will come sooner than we think. The Wi-Fi 8 launch date is expected to be around 2028, although as with all new Wi-Fi standards, devices using the new technology will take time to reach the market. You may not be using Wi-Fi 8 routers until 2030!

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Jason Micky

Hey Guys, I am Jason Micky The game guy. On this website I share a lot of stuff. Review games, free cheats and give out important update.