The WiFi alliance recently announced a change in the names for the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards, the specifications composed of a set of protocols determine the technology requirements of wireless networks. Since the IEEE 802.11 generations of WiFi technology are so popular and similarly named, to avoid confusion the Wi-Fi alliance has decided to appoint simpler names.
Simplifying the technical names of wireless standards
For anyone who has no previous WiFi knowledge and has ever tried to purchase a WiFi device, understanding the different generations of WiFi technology within the device can be a real struggle. These technical names composed of a long set of numbers followed by random letters seem nonsensical to anyone not proficient in WiFi terminology, making it difficult to decipher what the different letters are actually referring to.
Why is this change happening?
The re-brand of these alphanumeric codes will serve to help consumers make more informed decisions about the networks they are connecting to. Namely with popular wireless standards like 802.11n and 802.11ac which are some of the most commonly used, especially used when implementing home and office networks. By renaming these technologies, the WiFi Alliance is replacing these alphanumeric codes for single digit numbers that represent the ranking of each WiFi technology – i.e. WiFi 4 or WiFi 5.
From now on, the standard 802.11ac, will be called Wi-Fi 5 as it is the fifth version of IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi generation. Consequently, 802.11n (also sometimes known as Wireless N), will be known as Wi-Fi 4 as it is a lower version of the 802.11ac standard and the fourth version to be developed.
By shortening and simplifying these technical names, users will have a much easier time understanding the hierarchy between the different version. Indeed, the higher the version number, the higher the generation of WiFi technology – vis a vis, most upgraded, in terms of speed, signal, bandwidth.
Although not yet officially announced, the latest generation of Wi-Fi technology – 802.11ax – will soon be denoted WiFi 6.