As video and image files grow with higher resolution cameras and sensors, it takes an increasing amount of bandwidth to transfer those files around a wireless network. To support the need for faster transfer speeds, the Wi-Fi Alliance is working on ever faster Wi-Fi technology. It has announced Wi-Fi 6, the designation for devices that support the 802.11ax standard. The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 marks the beginning of the Wi-Fi Alliance using generational names for certification programs for all major IEEE 802.11 releases. That means instead of devices being called 802.11ax compatible, they will be called Wi-Fi Certified 6.
The new numerical naming convention will be applied retroactively to previous standards, with Wi-Fi 5 designating devices supporting 802.11ac and Wi-Fi 4 designating devices that support 802.11n. Each of those successive generations supported faster speeds and improved data throughput than the previous generation. Wi-Fi 6 brings end users an improved experience that addresses device and application needs in the consumer and enterprise environment. The Wi-Fi Alliance expects Wi-Fi 6 terminology to be adopted by the entire Wi-Fi ecosystem.
Wi-Fi 6 will be used to describe the capabilities of a device; manufacturers and OS builders of Wi-Fi devices are expected to use the terminology in user interfaces to signify the type of connection made and device certification starts in 2019.
The move to a simpler naming convention for Wi-Fi hardware will allow shoppers looking for new networking gear to stop focusing on technical naming conventions for the IEEE release, and instead focus on an easy to remember naming convention that shows at a glance if the device they are considering supports the latest Wi-Fi speeds and features. Some of the biggest names in wireless networking are onboard with the change in naming convention, including Aruba, Aerohive Networks, Netgear, CEVA, Marvell Semiconductor, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Intel. When actual Wi-Fi Certified 6 devices launch is up to the individual manufacturers, however, devices should hit the market shortly after certification starts next year.