Get ready for a new moniker to enter the Wi-Fi lexicon in the coming days, weeks and months. The Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing Wi-Fi 6 as the official industry designation for products and networks that support the next generation of Wi-Fi based on 802.11ax technology.
Wi-Fi 6 devices based on the sixth generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ax, will deliver advanced capabilities to support diverse, high-performance networks, according to the alliance, which expects product manufacturers to begin using the new Wi-Fi terminology almost immediately. Broad use of Wi-Fi 6 naturally will occur as products that support 802.11ax come to market.
“Wi-Fi has revolutionized nearly every aspect of the last two decades, fueling significant social and economic development. As we enter a new generation of connectivity, Wi-Fi isn’t resting on its laurels,” said Derek Peterson, chief technology officer at Boingo Wireless, in a press release. “We’re packing in new capabilities that deliver blazing fast speeds, high throughput, ultra-low latency, enhanced security and new features like target wake time for a seamless connected experience across a wide range of use cases. Boingo is proud to be part of this generational Wi-Fi launch and work alongside Wi-Fi Alliance to establish programs that further evolve the wireless ecosystem.”
Here's how the numerical designations break down generationally:
- Wi-Fi 6 to identify devices that support 802.11ax technology
- Wi-Fi 5 to identify devices that support 802.11ac technology
- Wi-Fi 4 to identify devices that support 802.11n technology
Of course, each generation of Wi-Fi offers new features—faster speeds, increased throughput, and better experiences. The alliance expects the generational terminology will be widely adopted by the Wi-Fi ecosystem, but it hasn’t always been so clear cut.
“For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance, in the release. “Wi-Fi Alliance is excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection.”
Besides using the term to describe the capabilities of a device, device manufacturers or OS vendors can incorporate the generational terminology in User Interface (UI) visuals to indicate the current type of Wi-Fi connection. The UI visual will adjust as a device moves between Wi-Fi networks so users have real-time awareness of their device connection, the alliance said.
Beginning with Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi Alliance certification programs based on major IEEE 802.11 releases will use a generational Wi-Fi name. Wi-Fi Certified 6 certification is coming in 2019.