What do Wi-Fi numbers actually mean?

Wi-Fi is ubiquitous in modern life, with the average American household having 22 connected devices. You might have noticed the naming scheme changed, with Wi-Fi numbers instead of letters after the name. But what does that mean, exactly? Well, in the proud tradition of bigger numbers = better, Wi-Fi has improved with every new standard. These improvements brought more bandwidth, better range, and the ability for more connected devices. What they also brought was a headache, as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 naming scheme was confusing. Seriously, why was 802.11b the first version of Wi-Fi, with 802.11a coming afterward? It took until the fourth iteration of Wi-Fi that the Wi-Fi Alliance decided it needed a simpler name. Enter Wi-Fi 4 or 802.11n if you’re still part of the IEEE. Now we’re almost on Wi-Fi 7, with devices coming out before the standard is made official. So what does that Wi-Fi number mean? We’ll explain the different Wi-Fi versions and why you want a particular generation. Wi-Fi numbers throughout the years Old nameNew NameYear introducedMaximum SpeedBands802.11b–199911Mbps2.4GHz802.11a–199954Mbps5GHz802.11g–200354Mbps2.4GHz802.11nWi-Fi 42009600Mbps2.4GHz and 5GHz802.11acWi-Fi 520133.46Gbps5GHz802.11axWi-Fi 6201910.53Gbps2.4GHz and 5GHz802.11axWi-Fi 6E202010.53Gbps2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz802.11beWi-Fi 72024 (expected)40Gbps2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz .stk-0fcddf9{height:26px !important} What does Wi-Fi actually stand for? Source: Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi is such a recognizable name that you probably already know what it stands for, right? After all, if Hi-Fi is “high fidelity, ” Wi-Fi is “wireless fidelity,” right? Well, not really. As Cory Doctorow writes, a founding member of the Wi-Fi Alliance said, “Wi-Fi doesn’t…What do Wi-Fi numbers actually mean?

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