What do the different types of WiFi offer you?

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There are currently quite a few types of WiFi, it is something that will only grow in the short and medium term. And of course, as in other technological fields, it is common to see several versions coexist, from the most recent of course to others that may be more than 20 years old. And the two decades is not an exaggeration, because today many devices have connectivity with one of the oldest types of WiFi, dated no less than 1999. Yes, WiFi of the last century, and more distant each day.

And why are these old types of WiFi maintained? In fact, you’ve probably already imagined it: backwards compatibility. Unlike planned obsolescence, this backwards compatibility allows devices that have been around for many years to continue to remain fully operational. Thus, in my opinion, the fact that it is now possible to acquire, for example, an 802.11a and b compatible router, is a fairly exemplary practice. And yes, I know there will be those who think this increases the exposure area, but at this point the key is that the device allows you to turn this on and off at will.

Now what is 802.11abgn, WiFi 5 or WiFi 2.4 or 5, or even 6 gigahertz? This soup of nomenclatures can be a little indigestible, because Two different denominations are combined, the network protocol identification and the commercial one.. The first, the one that begins with 802.11, and which in some cases is reduced to letters, such as WiFi ac, classifies the types of WiFi according to the standards on which it is based, while the denomination with a single digit, or a digit accompanied by a letter, identifies the types of WiFi by their commercial name.

Types of WiFi: what does each of them offer you?


Why are all types of Wi-Fi identified as 802.11? The rationale is found in the nomenclature devised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a worldwide association that oversees the definition of standards. Thus, when the first connectivity protocols began to be defined, the IEEE decided to give them an 802 classification.(letters). So yes, indeed, whenever you read a reference to IEEE 802, you will know it is a network type, such as 802.3, Ethernet (the most common wired network type) or 802.5, Token Ring, a type of network defined by IBM and which was very popular at the time.

So, as you may have already deduced, IEEE 802.11 refers to the suite of WiFi connectivity protocols. And, for their part, the letters indicated on the right uniquely identify each of the types of WiFi that have become standards, whether they are used worldwide, such as a, n, or ax, to name a few examples, or 802.11 j , applied exclusively in Japan. This explains the jumps, for example of this year’s bago, which generate doubts in some people.

In some cases, we can see the year of its publication is also added to the identification of the standard. If we go back to the example of WiFi j, we can also find it identified as IEEE 802.11j-2004. So, as you may have already imagined, the clearest way to find out what types of WiFi a device is compatible with, the most accurate, and the most reliable is to look up the 802.11 reference.(letters) or, failing that, Wi-Fi (letters).

Types of WiFi: what does each of them offer you?

However, and to avoid meaningless sets of letters and numbers for the majority, the industry has decided to adopt a classification system based on generations, themselves associated with certain standards (the most popular and therefore the most widely adopted), defined by the IEEE. This is the classification that you can see regularly and is identified as WiFi (Number)and which, on occasion, can also be identified by a number and a letter, such as WiFi 3 or WiFi 6e.

Therefore, and in order to know what the different types of WiFi offer us, it is particularly know how to associate the commercial identification with the 802.11 standard to which it refersbecause in this way we will be able to seek information about it to dispel all doubts.

An important aspect, however, is that up to 802.11n, many devices also have backwards compatibility in their name. So, at the time, it was common to find devices identified as WiFi 802.11abgn which, as you can quickly deduce, were compatible with WiFi types a, b, g, and n. However, since the arrival of 802.11ac, this practice has become obsolete, and only the most recent protocol has begun to be indicated. However, this does not mean that a router supporting 802.11ax is not compatible with 802.11n, for example.

As I said before, backwards compatibility is very present in the world of connectivity (something quite implicit, of course, in the very concept of connectivity, right? So, today virtually all routers support 2.4 and 5 gigahertz bands, something needed by more users than you might think. And it is that, if you look closely, even today you can find connected home devices, such as light bulbs and WiFi sockets, that are only compatible with 2.4 gigahertz WiFi types, usually WiFi G.

Types of WiFi: what does each of them offer you?

Types of Wi-Fi

Trade name IEEE Bands Speed Year
Wireless 802.11 infrared 1-2Mbps 1997
WiFi 1 802.11b 2.4 gigahertz 11Mbps 1999
WiFi 2 802.11a 5 gigahertz 54Mbps 1999
WiFi 3 802.11g 2.4 gigahertz 54Mbps 2003
WiFi 4 802.11n 2.4 and 5 gigahertz 600Mbps 2009
WiFi 5 802.11ac 5 gigahertz 1.3 Gbps 2014
WiFi 6 802.11ax 2.4 and 5 gigahertz 96 Gbps 2019
6th WiFi 802.11ax 2.4 5 and 6 gigahertz 96 Gbps 2021

Keep in mind, however, that these speeds are the theoretical maxims, combining several channels (demultiplexing) and under ideal connectivity conditions. The actual speeds of the WiFi guys are, as you probably already know, a bit more modest.

On the other hand, if you look at WiFi 6 and WiFi 6e, you will see that both are based on the same standard (802.11ax) and the only difference between the two is that WiFi 6e adds the 6 gigahertz band, expanding thus the range of usable radiographic spectrum. This extension of 802.11ax is therefore not intended to improve its speed but to decongest the 2.4 and 5 gigahertz bands a bitwhich are beginning to be somewhat saturated, due to the proliferation of plug-in devices.

With information from Wikipedia

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