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Wi-Fi Standards Explained
  • Last Updated : 17 Mar, 2021

Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity, and it is developed by an organization called IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) they set standards for the Wi-Fi system.

Each Wi-Fi network standard has two parameters :

  1. Speed – 
    This is the data transfer rate of the network measured in Mbps (1 megabit per second).
  2. Frequency – 
    On what radio frequency, the network is carried on. Two bands of frequency for the Wi-Fi are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. In short, it is the frequency of radio wave that carries data.

Two Frequencies of Wi-Fi signal :
Wi-Fi routers that come with 2.4 GHz or5 GHz are called the single-band routers but a lot of new routers support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency they are called dual-band routers. 

The 2.4 GHz is a common Wi-Fi band, but it is also used by other appliances like Bluetooth devices, wireless phones, cameras, etc. Because of the signal used by so many devices, the signal becomes overcrowded and speed becomes slow. So 5 GHz comes into the picture, It is new, and not commonly used, and because it is used by fewer devices there is no signal crowding and interference.

The 2.4 GHz transmits data at a slower speed than 5 GHz but does have a longer range than 5 GHz. The 5 GHz transmits data at a faster rate, but it has a shorter range because it has a higher frequency.



Parameter

2.4 GHz

5 GHz

Speed

Comparatively Low

High

Range

High

Comparatively low

Different standards of Wi-Fi :
These are the Wi-Fi standards that evolved from 1997 to 2021. In 1997 IEEE created one standard and gave the name 802.11.

IEEE 802.11 –



  1. It was developed in 1997.
  2. Speed is about 2 Mbps (2 megabits per second).

IEEE 802.11a –

  1. This standard is developed in 1999.
  2. 802.11a is useful for commercial and industrial purposes.
  3. It works on a 5 GHz frequency.
  4. The maximum speed of 802.11a is 54 Mbps.
  5. This standard was made to avoid interference with other devices which use the 2.4 GHz band.

IEEE 802.11b –

  1. This standard also created with 802.11a in 1999.
  2. The difference is that it uses a 2.4 GHz frequency band.
  3. The speed of 802.11b is 11 Mbps.
  4. This standard is useful for home and domestic use.

IEEE 802.11g –

  1. This standard is designed in 2003.
  2. Basically, it has combined the properties of both 802.11a and 802.11b.
  3. The frequency band used in this is 2.4 GHz for better coverage.
  4. And the maximum speed is also up to 54 Mbps.

IEEE 802.11n –

  1. This was introduced in 2009.
  2. 802.11n operates on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, they are operated individually.
  3. The data transfer rate is around 600 Mbps.

IEEE 802.11ac –

  1. This standard is developed in 2013 named 802.11ac.
  2. Wi-Fi 802.11ac works on the 5 GHz band.
  3. The maximum speed of this standard is 1.3 Gbps.
  4. It gives less range because of the 5 GHz band, but nowadays most of the devices are working on 802.11n and 802.11ac standards.

IEEE 802.11ax –

  1. It is the newest and advanced version of Wi-Fi.
  2. This is released in 2019.
  3. Operates on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz for better coverage as well as better speed.
  4. User will get 10 Gbps of maximum speed around 30-40 % improvement over 802.11ac

Tabular Representation :

VersionIntroduced inFrequency band usedMaximum speed provided

IEEE 802.11a

1999

5 GHz

54 Mbps

IEEE 802.11b

1999

2.4 GHz

11 Mbps

IEEE 802.11g

2003

2.4 GHz

54 Mbps

IEEE 802.11n

2009

Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

600 Mbps

IEEE 802.11ac

 2013 

5 GHz

1.3 Gbps

IEEE 802.11ax

2019

Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Up to 10 Gbps

Now recently Wi-Fi alliance announced the new naming scheme for Wi-Fi standards. Rather than the complex names like “802.11b” name now we can call as “Wi-Fi 1“, and similar for others. This will help consumers for easy to understand as 802.11 is difficult to understand.

New Naming Standards :

Network

Wi-Fi Standard

IEEE 802.11b

Wi-Fi 1

IEEE 802.11a

Wi-Fi 2

IEEE 802.11g

Wi-Fi 3

IEEE 802.11n

Wi-Fi 4

IEEE 802.11ac

Wi-Fi 5

IEEE 802.11ax

Wi-Fi 6

This is all about Wi-Fi and its various versions, In the future also, we may get a lot of improvements in the Wi-Fi system in speed and large range also.

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