Compare IEEE 802.11ac vs 802.11ax WiFi

802.11ac (WiFi 5) and 802.11ax (WiFi 6) are wireless networking standards developed by IEEE. 11ac follows 802.11n (WiFi 4) and precedes 11ax. 802.11 ac was introduced to provide faster and more reliable wireless communication in the 5 GHz frequency band. IEEE 802.11 ax was introduced to provide significant improvements in wireless network performance, capacity, and efficiency to meet the growing demands of modern wireless communication.

WiFi 802.11 ac

This WLAN standard is successor to IEEE 802.11n. It supports high throughput due to addition of higher bandwidths, multi-user MIMO, higher number of spatial streams and higher number of modulation schemes such as 256 QAM. It was introduced to provide faster and more reliable wireless communication in 5GHz band. It is called as wifi-5 as 11 ac is fifth generation of 802.11 standard.

Some of the key features and characteristics of IEEE 802.11ac are as follows.
• Wider channel bandwidths : Up to 80 MHz and 160 MHz, which allows high data throughput.
• Supports MU-MIMO which enables multiple devices to be served simultaneously on the same channel.
• Supports beamforming which allows AP to focus signal energy to connected devices directly which improves signal strength and reliability.
• Backward compatible with previous standards such as 802.11a/b/g/n.
• Supports WPA2 for enhanced security.
• Supports improved range and coverage than its predecessors.

It is used as high speed wi-fi in home and enterprise environments, It is suitable for bandwidth intensive applications such as streaming HD video, online gaming and large file transfers due to its improved data rates and performance capabilities.

WLAN 802.11 ax WiFi

This WLAN standard is successor to IEEE 802.11ac. It is called as wifi-6 as 11 ax is sixth generation of 802.11 standard. It has advanced features such as downlink and uplink OFDMA, Uplink resource scheduling without any contention unlike 802.11ac, MU-MIMO (DL and UL), Long OFDM symbol, higher modulation scheme (1024-QAM), More spatial streams (up to 8), support for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz both, BSS coloring etc.

Some of the key features and characteristics of IEEE 802.11ax are as follows.
• It offers maximum data rates of up to 9.6 Gbps in ideal conditions, achieved through advanced modulation schemes like 1024-QAM.
• It supports OFDMA which allows for more efficient sharing of channel resources.
• It supports MU-MIMO (Multi-USer MIMO) and extends higher number of simultaneous streams up to 8. This enhances ability to serve multiple devices simultaneously.
• It supports TWT (Target Wake Time) which allows devices to schedule when they wake up and communicate with AP (Access Point). This conserves power which is ideal for IoT devices.
• Supports WPA3 to improve security for wireless networks.
• Supports channel widths of up to 160 MHz and 80+80 MHz.
• Does not significantly increase maximum range compared to 802.11ac.
• It is backward compatible with older wi-fi standards.

Difference between 802.11ac and 802.11ax

Let us understand difference between 802.11ac and 802.11ax wifi standards with respect to various features including Speed or data rate, capacity, range and network efficiency.

Specifications 802.11ac 802.11ax
Frequency Bands 5 GHz (2.4 GHz not supported) 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz
Channel Bandwidths 20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80+80 MHz, 160 MHz 20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80 MHz, 80+80MHz, 160 MHz
FFT sizes 64, 128, 256, 512 256, 512, 1024, 2048
Subcarrier spacing 312.5 KHz 78.125 KHz
OFDM symbol duration 3.2µs + 0.8/0.4 µs CP 12.8µs + 0.8/1.6/3.2µs CP
Modulation scheme (highest) 256 QAM 1024 QAM
Data rates 433 Mbits/sec(with 80 MHz and 1 Spatial Streams(SS) )
6.933 Gbits/sec (with 160MHz, 8 SS)
600.4 Mbits/sec (with 80 MHz, 1 SS)
9.6078 Gbits/sec (with 160 MHz, 8 SS)
OFDMA Not supported Supported
Target Wake Time (TWT) Not supported Supported
Security WPA2 WPA3
Concurrent Users Up to 100 Up to 300
Spatial reuse (BSS coloring) Not supported Supported
Power efficiency Less efficient Improved efficiency
QoS (Quality of Service) Limited Significant improvements

Conclusion : Despite these similarities, it's important to note that 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) introduces several enhancements and features not found in 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5). As a result, 11ax offers higher data rates, improved efficiency and better support for dense deployments and IoT devices. Hence 802.11ax is considered a more advanced and capable Wi-Fi standard for modern networking needs.

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