802.11ac is now called ‘Wi-Fi 5’ in effort to simplify wireless nomenclature

It's time to start learning some new names and forgetting old ones in the wireless space. That's because Wi-Fi Alliance, the consortium that oversees all things Wi-Fi, is ditching the 802.11 nomenclature and replacing it with terms it hopes will be simpler for consumers to grasp.

What that means is your 802.11ac wireless router is now a Wi-Fi 5 model. Likewise, the previous generation 802.11n standard is now Wi-Fi 4, and the next-gen 802.11ax standard is officially called Wi-Fi 6.

"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. "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 technologies are still the same, it's just the designations have changed as the Wi-Fi Alliance aims to replace the current technical jargon with, well, less technical terms.

In case it's not obvious, the numerical sequence corresponds to major advancements in Wi-Fi. It's the hope of the Wi-Fi Alliance that the naming scheme will be broadly applied by product vendors, OS vendors, and service providers.

"In addition to describing the capabilities of the device, device manufacturers or OS vendors can incorporate the generational terminology in User Interface (UI) visuals to indicate the current type of Wi-Fi connection. The UI visual will adjust as a device moves between Wi-Fi networks so users have real-time awareness of their device connection," Wi-Fi Alliance added.

The new naming scheme will play out more prominently in future devices than with ones that are already on the market. Starting with 8̶0̶2̶.̶1̶1̶a̶x Wi-Fi 6, certification programs based on major IEEE 802.11 releases will transition to the generational naming scheme, with Wi-Fi 6 certification coming in 2019.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).