About WiFi – 2.4GHz, 5GHz, a,b,g,n,ac,ax? What is WiFi 6?

Ever seen the confusing alphabets in WiFi specifications. Wondered what these mean and how much useful it is? Here you will find all you want to know about WiFi Standards. What is WiFi 6. Let’s get to know below.

WiFi or 802.11 is basically a wireless networking technology used to transfer data among compatible devices without any physical connection taking place between them. Somewhere on the web, you can find out its full foam to be Wireless Fidelity, it is a wrong notation, actually WiFi is the registered trademark of WiFi-Alliance => WiFi alliance is a non-profit organization that promotes WiFi Technology and certifies WiFi devices and products on the basis of their Standards. It uses radio waves to give data transfer and internet services across devices. It is a part of 802 family, Developed by IEEE. IEEE is Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

WiFi was commercially available in 1998. Speed of WiFi at that time was 2MB/s which was very great at that time. The standard name of WiFi is 802.11 and out of 802 family, 802.3 stands for Ethernet, 802.15 stands for Bluetooth. There is not a specific meaning of 802, these are the protocols at which communication occurs. Different standards of WiFi launched by IEEE are a,b,g,n,ac,ax which too are naming schemes without a specific meaning.

How WiFi Works?

Data is transmitted across the devices with the help of electro-waves called radio waves which travels in the air on a predefined frequency in a spectrum using different bands out of which 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands are the popular ones. These are also reserved for communication under ISM Bands and also being used in Bluetooth, Walkie-Talkie toys etc. The data gets divided into small parts and each divided part contains data and address where the data is meant to be sent. Every individual WiFi device have its unique MAC Address by which the device is identified.

WiFi Bands – 2.4GHz and 5GHz

These are basically the two different frequency on which the radio waves carrying data travels. Both of these have their own pros and cons. Both of these are best under different conditions. 2.4 GHz band have a high range whereas 5GHz band have a low range of transmission, it is because, more powerful the signal is, more easily it can be break down. 2.4GHz band have more interference than 5GHz band. i.e. You are living in a society with 10 – 12 routers near you operating on 2.4GHz band, Due to interference because of the other routers, your speed may decrease because of the overlapping of channels in it and also, it have a less number of channels.

The speed of 5GHz band is faster than 2.4GHz because it have powerful signal more channels, which also means we can connect a lot of devices without dividing the speed between them. If we connect more devices with 2.4GHz band, the speed is distributed among the devices because it have less number of channels. It will work like your router first exchanges the data between itself and Device A then it will exchange with Device B and puts device A on waiting.

Nature of Difference2.4 GHz Band5GHz Band
SpeedSlowerFaster
RangeHigherLower
Number of ChannelsLess as compared to 5GHzMore as compared to 2.4GHz
Distribution of SpeedOccurs when large number of devices are connectedDo not occurs even when many devices are connected
Signal StrengthLess Powerful SignalMore Powerful Signal
Interference and DisturbancesOccurs because of other networks nearbyUsually do not occurs
Key differences between 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands

Learn About WiFi Standards

Generation / IEEE StandardMaximum Link SpeedIntroducedFrequency Bands
WiFi 6 / 802.11 ax600–9608 MB/s20192.4GHz / 5GHz 1–6 GHz ISM
WiFi 5 / 802.11 ac433–6933 MB/s20145GHz
WiFi 4 / 802.11 n72–600 MB/s20092.4GHz / 5GHz
802.11 g3–54 MB/s20032.4GHz
802.11 a1.5 to 54 MB/s19995GHz
802.11 b1 to 11 MB/s19992.4GHz
Table Comparing WiFi Standards

802.11 ‘a’ and ‘b’ Standard

Introduced in 1999. Where ‘a’ standard was developed for Office and Industry Usage and runs on 5GHz band having a speed up to 54Mb/s. Due to 5GHz band, a large number of devices can be connected without diving the speed among devices. Whereas ‘b’ standard was developed for home or domestic usage which runs on 2.4GHz band with a speed up to 11Mb/s. 2.4GHz band was used because of large range and do not needs large number of devices to be connected for home usage.

802.11 ‘g’ Standard

Introduced in 2003. It was made by combining the link speed of 802.11 ‘a’ and range of 802.11 ‘b’. Supports high range at a speed of 54Mb/s and runs on 2.4GHz band which simply meant to be used at home where less number of devices are connected.

802.11 ‘n’ Standard or WiFi 4

Introduced in 2009. It was the first dual band standard. Mostly used even now a days, Actually, still 70% of the devices are ‘n’ standard devices. It have a link speed of 600Mb/s. Perfect to be used in Office, Homes and Industries, everywhere as it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. WiFi Alliance give the name WiFi 4 to ‘n’ standard.

802.11 ‘ac’ Standard or WiFi 5

Introduced in 2013. It runs on a single band which is 5GHz band. The range of the WiFi 5 is low because of its 5GHz band. On the other hand, There are powerful signals in ‘ac’ standard which makes it faster with a link speed of up to 1.3Gb/s. It can connect a large number of devices with it without dividing the link speed among devices. WiFi Alliance have given the WiFi 5 name to ‘ac’ standard.

802.11 ‘ax’ Standard or WiFi 6

Being introduced in 2019, it is the latest version of WiFi till. It is dual band WiFi and mainly uses 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. In the case of WiFi direct, in which data is transferred directly between two devices, i.e. Mobile to mobile and PC-to-PC, It can use any ISM bands ranging from 1GHz to 6GHz. It have a peak speed of 9.38Gb/s. It is slowly coming into the market. Router Manufactures like TP-Link and Netgear etc are bringing their WiFi 6 routers whereas some phones like IQOO 3 are also launched which support WiFi 6. It brings the wireless communication technology to the next level.

Author: Prateek

Technology Enthusiast, Computer Science Student

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