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What Are the Different WiFi Types?

Most of us rely on WiFi every day to work, communicate, and even entertain ourselves. Sometimes, it’s easy for us to forget that this service even exists. In reality, there are many different types of WiFi that are available, and it’s on you to make sure you choose the right type of WiFi for your needs.

How do you do it?

What Is WiFi?

WiFi is short for “wireless fidelity.” It’s a kind of wireless networking technology that creates an interface between the internet and various devices, including computers, mobile devices, and smart appliances.

Note that WiFi is not the same as other wireless technologies, like the 5G internet you get with your phone or the Bluetooth technology you use to connect to your wireless earbuds. These technologies are similar in that they rely on wireless radio waves to transmit information, but they operate using very different standards.

What Is a WiFi Standard?

A WiFi standard is a set of protocols designed for routers, gateways, and other types of networking hardware to make sure they’re able to interoperate – and to guarantee compliance with certain legal standards. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the organization responsible for developing these standards, and the WiFi Alliance oversees them.

Nearly all modern WiFi devices rely on either WiFi 5 or WiFi 6. There’s also a variation of WiFi 6 known as WiFi 6E.

What Are the Different WiFi Types?

So what are the differences between WiFi 5 vs. 6 vs. 6E?

In short, WiFi 5 is a somewhat outdated and less capable technology. It was first issued in 2014, and at the time, it was quite impressive. But since WiFi 6 was released in 2019, it’s been almost completely outclassed. Nearly all home networks are much faster using WiFi 6, when compared to WiFi 5.

WiFi 6 routers are capable of achieving 700 Mbps or more, while WiFi 5 routers, in contrast, can only reach upwards of 450 Mbps in most practical situations. Also, WiFi 6 routers are much more reliable and capable of reaching further distances.

There are several variables responsible for creating these differences. However, the most notable differentiating factor is efficiency. It’s tempting to think of WiFi as transmitting data in a constant, continuous stream, but in reality, WiFi transmits data in short, large bursts. One of the biggest differences between these two technologies is that WiFi 5 can only send to one device at a time, while WiFi 6 can send to a variety of devices simultaneously.

WiFi 6 also allows for broadcasting without necessarily waiting for a channel to be clear. This creates congestion problems for WiFi 5 in many scenarios, resulting in less dependability and less overall efficiency.

As if that weren’t enough, WiFi 6 is inherently more secure than WiFi 5. This is because WiFi 6 adopts the WPA3 security standard. Network traffic on WiFi 6 has the potential to be encrypted across all devices on the network, making it more robustly protected against cyberattacks.

WiFi 6E is a variant of WiFi 6, utilizing the 6GHz radio frequency band in addition to the standard 2.4 and 5 bands. In short, that makes it more efficient, faster, and more reliable in most situations. There is an exception to this, however; this WiFi standard sometimes struggles with long ranges and thick walls that interfere with 6GHz radio waves.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that newer, better WiFi technologies tend to be more expensive. WiFi 6 is more expensive than WiFi 5, and WiFi 6E is more expensive than WiFi 6.

What’s Next?

As you might imagine, the progression of WiFi technology isn’t going to stop here. Already, scientists and engineers are working on the next generation of WiFi, WiFi 7. Unsurprisingly, this new standard is designed to be strictly superior to WiFi 6, offering faster speeds, less latency, greater stability, and greater overall capacity.

If you’re worried about falling behind as the world of WiFi keeps advancing, don’t worry too much. WiFi 5, while handily outclassed by WiFi 6, is still quite viable, and for the time being, all new WiFi standards are designed to be backward compatible. That means you won’t necessarily have to upgrade the moment WiFi 7 becomes available.

Getting Better WiFi

If you’re not currently using WiFi 6 or 6E, now could be the ideal time to upgrade. WiFi 5 isn’t necessarily bad, but it offers less robust security, slower speeds, more congestion issues, and a host of other problems. Upgrading to a new WiFi standard does cost some money and might take some time, especially if you need to update all your devices, but it’s worth the proactive investment if you want a better overall WiFi experience.



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