The Wi-Fi Alliance, the group of companies that backs Wi-Fi technology, has finally dumped the traditional 802.11 naming scheme and brought version numbers to identify Wi-Fi generations by a numerical sequence. As a result of the latest move, product vendors will start using generic names instead of using 802.11ac or 802.11 a/b/g/n to highlight the Wi-Fi technology supported by their devices. The new naming system is retroactively implemented on all the Wi-Fi technology versions that have been launched so far, starting with the 802.11b that was launched in 1999, and going up to 802.11ac that was introduced in 2014. This means 802.11b will be represented as Wi-Fi 1, while 802.11ac will be called Wi-Fi 5. Similarly, the Wi-Fi Alliance has announced that the next-generation Wi-Fi technology that was so far known as 802.11ax will now be dubbed Wi-Fi 6.
As each new generation of Wi-Fi standard brings advancements in terms of faster speeds, increased throughput, and better experiences over the previous generation, the new terminology will help users better understand the improvements in the new generations. The new numerical sequence includes Wi-Fi 6 for 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 5 for 802.11ac, Wi-Fi 4 for 802.11n, Wi-Fi 3 for 802.11g, Wi-Fi 2 for 802.11a, and Wi-Fi 1 for 802.11b. This somewhat looks clearer and more obvious than the previous naming scheme as it depicts newer Wi-Fi technologies with a larger numeric value. However, wider adoption of the new update is likely to take some time.
Alongside working closely with product vendors to adopt the new naming scheme, the Wi-Fi Alliance is set to use a generational Wi-Fi name in its certification programmes based on major IEEE 802.11 releases beginning with Wi-Fi 6 to push the fresh adoption. Wi-Fi Certified 6 certification will be released next year for the hardware using Wi-Fi 6 technology.
Further, device manufacturers and OS vendors will incorporate the generational terminology in user interface visuals to indicate the current type of Wi-Fi connection. This means if your phone or PC is connected to 802.11ac, it will show you Wi-Fi 5 branding instead of showing the simple Wi-Fi icon. This could even encourage end users to start using hardware with newer Wi-Fi technologies.
"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 a press statement. "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."
The Wi-Fi Alliance already has all the major tech companies on board. Also, companies including Broadcom, Intel, MediaTek, Netgear, and Qualcomm among various others have welcomed the new move. This will help with easy adoption of the new naming scheme. However, Kevin Robinson, the Alliance's marketing chief told The Verge that the new change will not be immediately adopted universally. Robinson also revealed that the industry conversation around the new change has been "very transparent" and the members are discussing the transition with each other.
Among other companies on board, Netgear is already set to deploy the new branding. "We believe that this will help customers better understand and appreciate the generational differences in Wi-Fi technology and usher in the latest 802.11ax standard," said David Henry, Senior Vice President of Connected Home Products, Netgear, in a statement. This suggests that the next-generation routers from Netgear could be amongst the first to come with the new naming scheme.