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Difference between wifi 6 and wifi 5,wifi 4,wifi 3,wifi 2,wifi 1

This page compares wifi 6 vs wifi 5 vs wifi 4 vs wifi 3 vs wifi 2 vs wifi 1 and mentions difference between wifi 6, wifi 5, wifi 4, wifi 3, wifi 2 and wifi 1 with respect to speed, range and other parameters.

Introduction: LAN is used to provide wired connectivity to computing devices with the help of ethernet cable. As LAN does not support wireless connectivity, WLAN has been developed. WLAN is also known as Wireless Local Area Network or WiFi (Wireless Fidelity). In order to establish WiFi network, WiFi router is essential. WiFi router connects one side with wired broadband connection and provide wireless signals to the other side for wireless devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets.


IEEE WLAN group has developed series of WiFi standards to support various speeds, ranges, frequencies. The series include 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ax. The same series of WLAN standards can be designated as WiFi-1 to WiFi-6 respectively.

WiFi 1

The Standard IEEE 802.11b is referred as WiFi 1. This is the first WiFi standard developed by IEEE for Wireless LAN. This WiFi 1 devices operate at 2.4 GHz frequency band and uses DSSS/CCK modulation schemes for data. It provides support for different speed as per mod-code rate viz. 1, 2, 5.5 and 11 Mbps. WiFi-1 supports coverage distances of about 38 meters in indoor and about 140 meters in outdoor environments. Refer CCK vs DSSS vs OFDM>> for more information.

WiFi 2

The Standard IEEE 802.11a is referred as WiFi 2. This WiFi Standard is successor to IEEE 802.11b (i.e. WiFi 1). This is the first wifi standard in which multi carrier modulation scheme i.e. OFDM has been introduced to support high data rates unlike single carrier used in wifi-1. This WiFi-2 version based routers (i.e. APs) and Stations (i.e. clients) operate at 5 GHz RF carrier frequency. This standard based devices support various speed or data rates such as 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48 and 54 Mbps due to use of 20 MHz bandwidth. WiFi-2 compliant routers support distance coverage or range of about 35 meters (in indoors) and 120 meters (in outdoors).

WiFi 3

The Standard IEEE 802.11g is referred as WiFi 3. This WiFi Standard is successor to IEEE 802.11a (i.e. WiFi 2). The WiFi-3 or 11g standard has been developed to support frequency bands of both 11b and 11a standard based devices. It supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. It supports all the features as supported by 11a and 11b standards.

WiFi 4

The Standard IEEE 802.11n is referred as WiFi 4. This WiFi Standard is successor to IEEE 802.11g (i.e. WiFi 3). This is the wifi standard in which MIMO has been introduced. Beamforming has been introduced but interoperabilities have not been tested. It supports legacy fallbacks to previous wifi versions viz. wifi-1, wifi-2 and wifi-3. It supports 20 MHz and 40 MHz bandwidths. Due to use of MIMO and higher BW (i.e. 40 MHz) data rates up to 150Mbps can be achieved. WiFi-4 devices can support range of about 70 meters in indoor and about 250 meters in outdoor environments. MIMO configurations supported by WiFi-4 devices include 2T3R and 4T4R. Modulation schemes such as BPSK, QPSK, 16QAM and 64QAM are used.

WiFi 5

The Standard IEEE 802.11ac is referred as WiFi 5. This WiFi standard is successor to IEEE 802.11n (i.e. WiFi 4). This is the first wifi standard in which beamforming has been added to the MIMO and multi-user MIMO feature are also introduced. WiFi-5 supports higher throughput due to addition of higher bandwidths ( upto 160 MHz ), multi-user MIMO, higher number of spatial streams ( upto 8) and higher number of modulation schemes (256 QAM). It operates on 5 GHz and supports legacy multi-carrier (OFDM) and single carrier (DSSS, CCK) modulation schemes and baseband modulation types (BPSK, QPSK, 16QAM, 64 QAM, 256QAM) Various channel Bandwidths are supported which include 20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80 MHz and 160 MHz. WiFi-5 supports maximum data rate of 6.93 Gbps ( using 160MHz bandwidth, 8 spatial streams, MCS9, 256QAM, with short guard interval) and coverage range of approx. 80 m with 3 antenna (about 10 meter more than wifi-4). MIMO configuration up to 4 x 4 can be employed. It supports single user transmission as well as multi-user transmissions.
WLAN 802.11ac basics➤

WiFi 6

802.11ax features and advantages
Image Courtesy: Ruckus Networks

The standard IEEE 802.11ax is referred as WiFi 6, which is called 6th generation of WiFi. This WiFi standard is successor to IEEE 802.11ac (i.e. WiFi 5). WiFi 6 offers higher speed and greater coverage range compare to legacy wifi networks wifi-5, wifi-4, wifi-3 etc. WiFi-5 operates at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands.

OFDMA concept has been introduced in both uplink and downlink directions in wifi-6. The other major features which have been introduced in the wifi-6 include MU-MIMO, beamforming, 1024-QAM, longer size OFDM symbol, higher number of spatial streams (up to 8), Uplink resource scheduling without any contention unlike 802.11ac etc. The another unique feature is BSS coloring. Due to its high efficiency performance, it is also known as HEW (High Efficiency WLAN). 802.11ax offers better efficiency, network capacity, performance and user experience at reduced latency. WLAN 802.11ax basics, advantages and disadvantages➤

Difference between wifi 6 and wifi 5, wifi 4, wifi 3, wifi 2, wifi 1

Following table compares various parameters viz. speed, coverage range etc. of various wifi versions and mentions comparison between them.

WiFi Version Features
WiFi 1 • IEEE 802.11b standard
• Speed: 1, 2, 5.5 and 11 Mbps
• Range: 38 meters (indoor), 140 meters (outdoor)
WiFi 2 • IEEE 802.11a standard
•  6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48 and 54 Mbps
•  35 meters (indoors) and 120 meters (outdoors)
WiFi 3 • IEEE 802.11g standard
•  Speed : Same as supported by wifi-1 and wifi-2
•  Range : Same as supported by wifi-1 and wifi-2
WiFi 4 • IEEE 802.11n standard
•  Speed : Maximum up to 150 Mbps
•  Range : 70 meters (indoor), 250 meters (outdoor)
WiFi 5 • IEEE 802.11ac standard
•  Speed : 433 Mbits/sec(with 80 MHz and 1 Spatial Streams(SS) ); 6.933 Gbits/sec (with 160MHz, 8 SS)
•  Range : 80 meters with 3 antennas
WiFi 6 • IEEE 802.11ax standard
•  Speed : 600.4 Mbits/sec (with 80 MHz, 1 SS); 9.6078 Gbits/sec (with 160 MHz, 8 SS)
•  Range : Better than wifi-5 routers as beamforming is supported in wifi-6 routers.

Difference between wifi 5 and wifi 6

Following table mentions difference between wifi-5 and wifi-6 with respect to physical layer parameters.

Difference between wifi-5 and wifi-6, WiFi-5 vs WiFi-6

WiFi-6 and WiFi-5 related links

advantages and disadvantages of 802.11ac (WiFi 5)
advantages and disadvantages of 802.11ax (WiFi 6)
BSS coloring in 11ax
RU in 802.11ax
MU-OFDMA in 802.11ax
MU-MIMO in 802.11ax
Difference between 802.11ac Wave1 and Wave2
Difference between 802.11n,11ac,11ad
WLAN 802.11ac tutorial
WLAN 802.11ax tutorial
WLAN 802.11ac frame structure
WLAN 802.11ac Physical Layer
802.11ac MAC Layer
802.11ax basics
WLAN 11a,11b,11n,11ac frame structures

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