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  • The Wi-Fi Alliance just issued new naming protocols for past and future Wi-Fi standards.
  • Gone is the weird lettering system (802.11ac, 802.11n, etc.) with a simple number taking its place.
  • The newest Wi-Fi standard will be known as Wi-Fi 6, and the previous standards will get renamed as well.


If you’ve ever purchased a Wi-Fi router, you might have been confused by the weird naming protocol each one uses. You might see one that says it supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, or another that supports 802.11 b/n/ac. What does that all mean?

The letters refer to the Wi-Fi standards the router supports. But which one is the most recent/best? Unless you take the time to Google it, you might not know.

Luckily, the Wi-Fi Alliance is going to make everything simpler for us by abandoning the weird lettering system and instead adopting a much more straightforward numerical system. In the future, when you go to buy a router, you’ll be able to easily see how new the router is and whether or not it supports the latest standards — without having to Google the naming scheme first.

The previous standards are also getting renamed retroactively. This is how it will look going forward:

  • Wi-Fi 6 to identify devices that support 802.11ax technology
  • Wi-Fi 5 to identify devices that support 802.11ac technology
  • Wi-Fi 4 to identify devices that support 802.11n technology

That is so much better.

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The new naming scheme won’t just affect the box art of Wi-Fi routers — it will affect every device that connects to a wireless network, including smartphones. Future spec sheets of the latest smartphones will list out the Wi-Fi standards the device supports using the numerical system, which will make everything easier to understand.

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard won’t start to become widespread until next year, with Wi-Fi 6 certifications from the Wi-Fi Alliance appearing in 2019. During this transition period, companies might use both naming schemes to keep things clear, but eventually, the lettering system will vanish and we’ll be left only with numbers.

You can read more about the new naming scheme here and you can read more about the latest advances with Wi-Fi 6 here.

NEXT: Here’s how to troubleshoot and fix most Wi-Fi issues