By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Confused about what version of Wi-Fi you are using? Soon you will be confused no more. Yesterday the Wi-Fi Alliance announced a new naming convention and user interface visuals for generations of Wi-Fi technology including the name ‘Wi-Fi 6’ for products supporting the upcoming 802.11ax standard.
The naming of Wi-Fi standards has been a mouthful for most non-technical people – especially because the ‘alphabet soup’ of IEEE standards upon which Wi-Fi Alliance certifications are based follow no particular naming logic. But now all of this will be vastly simplified with a new naming scheme and visual means of informing users of what generation of Wi-Fi technology they are on. The change was announced by the Wi-Fi Alliance yesterday in this press release.
In short, the new 802.11ax standard – for which products are just now beginning to be released into the market – will be called ‘Wi-Fi 6’ while the two previous Wi-Fi technology generations will be called ‘Wi-Fi 4’ (for 802.11n) and ‘Wi-Fi 5’ (for 802.11ac). The name change also highlights the fact that 802.11ax is indeed the sixth generation of Wi-Fi networking technology.
Updated visuals on your connectivity status bar
“The goal is to allow consumers to easily recognize the type of Wi-Fi capability found in their devices and network connections, much as they recognize today through cellular identification of capabilities 3G, 4G, etc.,” says the Wi-Fi Alliance in this Generational Wi-Fi User Guide also released yesterday that explains the new naming and graphical conventions.
Perhaps even more significant than printed names and icons used to label boxes and devices: The Wi-Fi Alliance has specified how the user interface – for example on a computer or smartphone – will reflect what generation of Wi-Fi consumers are using for their connectivity. The famous concentric-arc signal strength icon in the status-bar on such devices will now be accompanied by numerals 4, 5, or 6 (see above and samples below).
Our take: Welcome to the world, Wi-Fi 6!
So what’s our take on this? Although perhaps not everyone will approve of changes to how the iconic Wi-Fi brand is used, the new naming convention will allow for more precise communications and likely increase the effectiveness of the Wi-Fi value proposition towards consumers – especially with regards to the new AX standard.
And now that the Wi-Fi version will be immediately identifiable on your device this will also raise the bar of competition for example among service providers. And that’s a good thing. So we can only say this: Welcome to the world, Wi-Fi 6!
Above: Sample customised device icons, source: Wi-Fi Alliance’s Generational Wi-Fi User Guide