WiFi standards (802.11 series)

3 min readDec 6, 2020

We all are familiar with WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) and probably use it on daily basis. If you have never come across the term ‘802.11’, then just keep reading.

In 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the 802.11 which was the first wireless networking standard in the family. ‘802’ is the committee name of IEEE related to LAN-MAN standards, but its better not to get into that for now.

They gradually upgraded the WiFi standards with some weird nomenclature which makes no sense.


The first network, 802.11 had a speed of 2 Mbps which was fast enough at that time.

802.11a & 802.11b

Around 1999, 802.11a and 802.11b were created together. 802.11a operated on high frequency of 5GHz (hence had lower range) with high speed of 54 Mbps and was used for commercial/industry work. Whereas 802.11b operating on 2.4 GHz (hence had larger range) with lower speed of 11Mbps was used for domestic usage.

WiFi 3 -802.11g

In 2003 came the 802.11g which was a combination of both 802.11a and 802.11b. It operated on 2.4 GHz frequency but provided a high speed of 54 Mbps.

WiFi 4 -802.11n

In 2009 came the 802.11n which had both options to operate in 2.4 GHz as well as 5 GHz. Both frequencies could operate simultaneously, and both could provide speeds as high as 600 Mbps which was significantly higher. This high speed was achieved using MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output).

WiFi 5 -802.11ac

In 2013 came the 802.11ac operated exclusively in 5 GHz band and could provide high speeds starting from 1.3 Gbps to almost 7 Gbps. 802.11ac used eight MIMO streams (twice as many used in 802.11n) to achieve this much throughput.

WiFi 6 -802.11ax

In 2019 came 802.11ax offering bands at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Also known as AX WiFi, it offered improvements over WiFi 5 (802.11ac) and was aimed at overcoming congestion issues caused by multiple devices sharing the same signal. It comparatively consumed less power and provided speeds up to 40-percent faster (9.6 Gbps) than WiFi5.

WiFi 6E -still 802.11ax

6E is similar to WiFi 6, but the difference is that 6E can operate on frequency of 6 GHz too (more specifically 5.925 GHz — 7.125 GHz). This 6 GHz spectrum should work similarly to WiFi 6 over 5 GHz but offers additional non-overlapping channels which will help reduce congestion, particularly in areas where lots of networks are operating.


There are many more IEEE 802.11 standards not mentioned here, both adopted and in development. Example -802.11ah, 802.11aj, 802.11ak, 802.11ay, 802.11az, 802.11ba, 802.11af, 802.11ad, etc

If you learnt anything new, do give a clap to this medium. Thank you for reading :)