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The Evolution of Wi-Fi 

The pace of new Wi-Fi technology developing over the past decade has been rapid.  We have moved from the 802.11g/n Wi-Fi standards, which provided basic communication capability, including standard definition video streaming, to a big leap forward with the 802.11ac standard, which allowed for gigabit wireless connections, capable of streaming HD and even 4K video.

As we talk about Wi-Fi and the different generations, we often struggle to keep up with the naming – 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and so on. Let’s have a quick look on how this terminology all began.

In 1980, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established a committee, #802, to develop technical standards for various networking technologies. However, because the term “IEEE 802.11-1997” wasn’t very marketable or memorable, a consulting firm was hired to create a catchier brand name. And, a star was born. The IEEE 802.11-1997 standard thereafter became known simply as Wi-Fi.

Since then, IEEE Committee 802 has released several amendments to the evolving IEEE 802.11-1997 standard. This table describes the generations and amendments of the IEEE 802.11-1997 standard:

Generation Amendment Year Frequency Maximum Data Speed
First 802.11b 1999 2.4 GHz Up to 11 Mbps
Second 802.11a 1999 5 GHz Up to 54 Mbps
Third 802.11g 2003 2.4 GHz Up to 54 Mbps
Fourth 802.11n 2007 2.4 and 5 GHz Up to 600 Mbps
Fifth 802.11ac 2013 5 GHz Up to 1.733Gbps

Aligned with this generational history of Wi-Fi, the Wi-Fi Alliance® recently announced a new approach that enables users to easily differentiate between Wi-Fi technologies. Under the new naming scheme:

  • Wi-Fi 4 identifies devices that support 802.11n technology
  • Wi-Fi 5 identifies devices that support 802.11ac technology
  • Wi-Fi 6 identifies devices that support 802.11ax technology

And yes, this is with the new introduction of the sixth generation Wi-Fi:

Generation Amendment Year Frequency Data Speed
Sixth Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) 2018 2.4 and 5 GHz 10Gbps and more!

Leading the New Era of Wi-Fi

NETGEAR has historically been among the first to deliver state-of-the-art routers with the most cutting-edge Wi-Fi technology, and continues to deliver the best performing networking solutions to the world, leading product launches on the Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). NETGEAR continues our legacy in leading edge whole-home connectivity solutions in adding Wi-Fi 6 in its latest family of Wi-Fi products (see: AX-The New Standard of WiFi).

Wi-Fi 6 represents a new era of Wi-Fi with substantially increased network capacity and blazing fast speeds for countless devices to handle extremely dense network conditions that most users have today, with many wireless devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network at the same time.

The future of Wi-Fi will be bright for generations to come and NETGEAR Nighthawk Wi-Fi 6 routers are leading this new era of Wi-Fi .

Abhay Bhorkar

Director of Product Management

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