What is the Difference Between 802.11ac and 802.11ax

Sep 26, 2019Learning Annex, WiFi Networking

The next evolution of Wi-Fi is expected to launch in late 2019. Since 2014, the Wi-Fi standard has been 802.11ac, also known as Wi-Fi 5. Wi-Fi 5 was the second iteration of Wi-Fi standards with two bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz, boasting improved speeds from its predecessor. Since then, Wi-Fi has remained nearly the same. Now, with 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6, on the horizon, there are new improvements in Wi-Fi to look forward to.

Wi-Fi 6 Improvements and Features

As with any new Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6 promises faster speeds and increased range across all compatible devices. Wi-Fi 6 can transmit WiFi signals more efficiently, and therefore, will be able to handle the growing number of internet-connected devices in your home. It should be said that your current connected device may not have the compatible hardware to support Wi-Fi 6 features. Should you run to the store and replace all of your Internet devices? These improvements don’t make Wi-Fi 6 an immediate necessity, however, as you continue to add more and more IoT smart devices to your home, these features will become more useful. Simply put, you will need to have both a Wi-Fi 6 router and Wi-Fi 6 devices to reap the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6 will be built into new routers and future generations of smartphones and computers, so when you’re ready to upgrade, you’ll be using the new standard. The 802.11ax standard uses more efficient data management tools that significantly speeds up Internet connections even on a 2.4GHz band.

One of the challenges that Wi-Fi 5 encountered was the dramatic decrease in internet speeds when a large network is extremely crowded. This was especially prevalent in hotels, stadiums and anywhere else that offered Wi-Fi to a large crowd. Wi-Fi 6 offers multiple access channels, meaning one wireless channel can be divided into a number of sub-channels, allowing more devices to be connected. Since Wi-Fi 6 is designed to handle a higher number of devices and deliver more data to devices, latency drops significantly. This means you’ll have a better Internet connection even in super busy places.

When to Expect Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is already here as a certified standard which newly manufactured devices will put to use. For example, next generation routers, smartphones and laptops labeled “Wi-Fi 6 Certified” or “Wi-Fi 6 Compatible,” were announced in late 2018 and are expected to emerge more in 2019 as the standard becomes more commonplace among device manufacturers. “Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6” is a seal of approval given by the Wi-Fi Alliance, indicating that the product has proven interoperability, compatibility and security standards.

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