The next generation of the Wi-Fi standard is Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, the latest step in a journey of nonstop innovation. The standard builds on the strengths of 802.11ac while adding efficiency, flexibility, and scalability that allows new and existing networks increased speed and capacity with next-generation applications.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) proposed the Wi-Fi 6 standard so it can couple the freedom and high speed of Gigabit Ethernet wireless with the reliability and predictability found in licensed radio.
Wi-Fi 6 allows enterprises and service providers to support new and emerging applications on the same wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure while delivering a higher grade of service to older applications. This scenario sets the stage for new business models and increased Wi-Fi adoption.
No, they are the same. The Wi-Fi Alliance started a campaign to coin the term “Wi-Fi 6” when referring to the IEEE 802.11ax standard. It indicates that it is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi. The premise was to simplify the marketing message to help 802.11ax be better positioned relative to the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards used in cellular (such as 5G).
The IEEE-Standards Association is currently scheduled to ratify the final IEEE Wi-Fi 6 amendment in the middle of 2020. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to certify key features from the amendment in about August 2019, with additional features (including operation in the 6GHz band) certified over the next couple of years.
Wi-Fi 6 will build on the success of 802.11ac. It will let access points support more clients in dense environments and will provide a better experience for typical wireless LAN networks. It will also provide a more predictable performance for advanced applications such as 4K or 8K video, high-density high-definition collaboration apps, all-wireless offices, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Wi-Fi 6 will drive Wi-Fi toward the future as the growth of wireless continues.
See our technical white paper: IEEE 802.11ax: The Sixth Generation of Wi-Fi
There are some Wi-Fi 6 access points already on the market, targeted for early adopters and customers who are eager to test the new standard. The access points that are released early will be pre-standard APs because the standard will not yet have been ratified. This means key features that are part of Wi-Fi 6 may not be supported on some of these initial, pre-standard access points. However, when available, some of these access points will be able to become certified through software updates and Wi-Fi 6 features will be supported. This approach is similar to the introduction of prior generations such 802.11ac and 802.11n. Ready to power next-gen wireless apps? Get started with our Wi-Fi 6 resource kit.
As with every other recent Wi-Fi advance, Wi-Fi 6 will be backward compatible, building on existing technologies and making them more efficient.