Wifi 5 vs Wifi 6: Understanding the 10 key differences | (2023)

Wifi 5 was introduced in 2014 and has been the leading wireless LAN technology for several years. However, as of 2019-2020, Wifi 6 has caught on, with large scale shipments across the world. This article explains the differences between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6, the pros and cons of each, and the rise of Wifi 6E, the latest offering.


  • WLAN 5 x WLAN 6
  • WiFi 5 vs. Wifi 6: 10 main differences
  • On the way to Wifi 6e: the next generation


Wi-Fi is a widely used technology across the world. Almost all smartphones have some form of Wi-Fi connectivity. Wifi refers to "Wireless Fidelity" and was coined as a trade name by a group of technology companies, the Wifi Alliance. It is a technology that uses radio waves to allow computers, smartphones, smart watches and other electronic devices to access the Internet and also communicate with each other over a wireless personal area network.

In its most primitive form as ALOHAnet, Wifi originated in Hawaii in 1971. WaveLAN was then developed in 1991 and became the forerunner of the current WLAN standard IEEE 802.11. Since its inception, wireless technology, especially Wifi, has evolved over the years with the release of increasingly sophisticated standards. A few years ago, Wifi 5 was the highest WiFi standard available. However, Wifi 6 was released and started to penetrate the global market.

What is Wi-Fi 5?

Wifi 5 or IEEE 802.11ac is the fifth generation of wireless networking standards in the IEEE 802.11 standard set that provides high throughput over a wireless network.rede local (LAN)using the 5 GHz frequency band. Wifi 5 was released in 2014 and brought several upgrades from the previously used Wifi 4. While Wifi 5 is a wonderful innovation, it has both advantages and disadvantages.

Professionals include:

  • Wireless data transmission on Wifi 5 takes place on the less congested 5 GHz frequency band. The previous 802.11n WiFi standard operated in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, while others used only 2.4 GHz. The 2.4GHz band is hardly ideal, as many devices operate at this radio frequency. To make matters worse, other types of wireless networks also use the same frequency. Wifi 5 tries to solve this problem by using a different and less congested frequency channel, the 5 GHz band.
  • Wifi 5 has better performance and speed than its predecessor Wifi 4. Wifi 5 offers a theoretical maximum achievable connection speed of 6.9Gbps. This is a huge benefit considering that just a few years ago, devices could only dream of transmitting just a few bits per second.
  • There is a larger channel width with more advanced MU-MiMO technology, which allows larger data volumes of up to 4 users to be transmitted efficiently.
  • Wifi 5 signal modulation is more efficient than the previous generation.

The disadvantages are:

(Video) WiFi 6 Explained

  • Signals travel a shorter distance due to the 5GHz band.
  • Backwards compatibility can be an issue as devices operating at 2.4GHz may not play well with 5GHz WiFi 5.
  • The initial installation cost can be high.

View more: What is network hardware? Definition, architecture, challenges and best practices

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wifi 6 is the official market name for wirelesscomputer networkOperation in the 802.11ax standard. It is also known as AX Wifi or High Efficiency Wifi. It is the successor to 802.11ac (Wifi 5). Wifi 6 is a pretty cool improvement on Wifi technology in general. Its main purpose is to improve WiFi connectivity in high-density environments such as shopping malls, dense residential areas, corporate offices, buildings, etc. IEEE 802.11ax was released in 2019 and uses the standard 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the 6GHz band planned to be introduced in WLAN 6e.

The benefits of Wi-Fi 6 include:

  • Conserves battery life by integrating Target Wake Time (TWT). Devices powered by Wifi 6 networks generally last longer. That's because Wifi 6 connections are automatically "turned off" when not in use and the device goes into sleep mode. This is especially useful when configuring IoT devices that may not need constant Wi-Fi activity.
  • Wifi 6 offers faster speeds than Wifi 5, both for a single device and many more when multiple devices are connected to one router.
  • It has better security protocols for safe web browsing.
  • Backward compatibility with Wifi 5 and Wifi 4 devices, among other standards.
  • Increased number of devices supported by a router.

It also has the following disadvantages:

  • When buying smartphones and laptops with Wifi 6 technology, there are high installation and device costs.
  • It has a relatively short range of connectivity.

View more:Wide Area Network (WAN) versus Local Area Network (LAN): Key Differences and Similarities

WiFi 5 vs. Wifi 6: 10 main differences

Keeping up with ever-changing WiFi standards can be challenging. Each version has more modifications, better specs and better usability. However, there is still some overlap with successive WLAN standards. This requires all people who use Wifi and Internet technology to be aware of the main differences between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6. These differences include:

1. The name of the WLAN standard

When Wifi was first released, each individual medium was given names based on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.11 standard. For ease of marketing, the Wifi Alliance has given the various standards more specific names based on their position in the generations of Wifi standards. Wifi 5 used the IEEE 802.11aac designated name. The latest Wifi 6 standard is called 802.11ax. These two are not to be confused with one another.

2. Power consumption and battery life

Electronic device battery life is one of the most important specs people look for when considering a new device. While the power supply is consistent enough, carrying a charger is neither convenient nor aesthetically pleasing. Some devices, especially inIoT device management, are not designed to be recharged repeatedly. This means that a WiFi standard that can reduce the amount of energy consumed by the WiFi connection is a better option, as WiFi tends to drain battery reserves.

(Video) Explained: WiFi 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Wifi 6 offers this unique battery saving benefit due to a new feature not found in previous generations called Target Wake Time (TWT). TWT is a technology that can reduce the non-productive time that a peripheral device spends on the WiFi network.

Target Wake Time allows the access point to communicate with a device and tell it to put the WiFi radio to sleep when it is not transmitting. Devices can determine when their WiFi is active to send and receive data, increasing their wait time. While this feature might not be practical for active smartphone users, it's perfect for Internet of Things (IoT) setups that don't require a permanent Internet connection with longer-lasting batteries.

Wifi 5 does not have the TWT function and cannot regulate the amount of energy consumed by peripheral devices. Therefore, the power consumption when using Wifi 5 is higher than when using Wifi 6.

3. Network security protocols

The importance ofnetwork securityin wireless networks can never be overestimated. Wi-Fi as a wireless network allows multiple devices and users to connect to the Internet through a hotspot. WiFi is also commonly used in public places where there is less control over who can connect to a network. In corporate buildings, necessary information must be protected from malicious hackers trying to destroy or steal data.

Wifi 5 supports WPA and WPA2 protocols for secure connection. Compared to the now obsolete WEP protocol, these are significant security improvements, however, it now has a number of weaknesses and vulnerabilities. One of these vulnerabilities is dictionary attacks, which cybercriminals use to guess your encrypted password using multiple guesses and combinations.

Wifi 6 has upped the game by integrating the latest security protocol, WPA3. So Wifi 6 enabled devices used WPA, WPA2 and WPA3 protocols together. WiFi Protected Access 3 improvedmultifactor authenticationand encryption methods. It has OWE technology that prevents automatic encryption and finally scannable OR codes to connect directly to devices.

4. Data transfer speed

Speed ​​is an important and exciting feature that new technologies need to work on before launch. Speed ​​is fundamental to everything that happens on the internet and any type ofnetwork topology🇧🇷 Faster rates mean faster download times, better streaming, faster data transfers, better video conferencing and voice conferencing, faster browsing, etc.

Wifi 5 has a maximum theoretical data transfer speed of 6.9 Gbps. In practice, the 802.11ac standard has an average data rate of around 200 Mbit/s. The speed at which a wireless standard operates depends on QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) and the number of devices connected to an access point or router. Wifi 5 uses 256 QAM modulation, which is much lower than Wifi 6. In addition, Wifi 5 MU-MIMO technology conveniently allows only four devices to be connected at the same time. More devices means congestion and bandwidth sharing, resulting in slower speeds for each device.

(Video) What is WiFi 6??? - Speed/Range Test vs WiFi 5 - AX vs AC

In contrast, Wifi 6 is a much better option in terms of speed, especially when it comes to congested networks. It uses 1024 QAM modulation and has a theoretical maximum of up to 9.6 Gbps. The difference between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 speeds per device is not that big. Wifi 6 is invariably faster, but the real speed advantage comes when multiple devices are connected to the Wifi network. The exact number of connected devices causing a significant drop in internet speed and strength for Wifi 5 devices and routers will be almost imperceptible with Wifi 6.

5. The approach to beamforming

Beamforming is a signal transmission technique that directs wireless signals to a specific receiver instead of scattering the signal in different directions. Beamforming allows an access point to send data directly to a device instead of broadcasting the signal in all directions. Beamforming is not a new technology and was present in both Wifi 4 and Wifi 5. Only four antennas were used in the Wifi 5 standard. However, Wifi 6 uses eight antennas. The better the wireless router can use beamforming technology, the better the data rate and signal range.

View more:Preparing SD-WAN Networks for the Cloud Era

6. Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)

Wifi 5 uses a technology known as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM).network access control🇧🇷 It is a technology that tracks the number of users accessing a specific subcarrier at any one time. In the 802.11ac standard, frequency channels 20, 40, 80 and 160 MHz have 64, 128, 256 and 512 subcarriers, respectively. This drastically limits the number of users that can connect and use the WiFi network at any one time.

On the other hand, Wifi 6 uses OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access). OFDMA technology multiplexes already existing subcarrier spaces in the same frequency bands. This way, users don't have to wait for a free subcarrier, but can easily find it.

OFDMA allocates different units of resources to different users. OFDMA requires four times the number of subcarriers per channel frequency than the previous technology. This means that in the 802.11ax standard, there are 256, 512, 1024, and 2048 subcarriers on the 20, 40, 80, and 160 MHz channels, respectively. This results in less congestion and delay, even when multiple devices are connected. OFDMA increases efficiency, reduces latency, and is ideal for low-bandwidth operations.

7. Multi-user, multiple inputs, multiple outputs (MU-MIMO)

MU MIMO stands for "Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple Output". It is a wireless technology that allows more than one user to communicate with a router at the same time. There is a huge difference in MU-MIMO capability from Wifi 5 to Wifi 6.

Wifi 5 uses a unidirectional 4×4 MU-MIMO downlink. This means that multiple users can access the router and a stable WiFi connection up to a certain limit. Once this limit of four simultaneous transmissions is exceeded, WiFi becomes congested and shows signs of congestion such as increased latency, packet loss, etc.

(Video) What Is WiFi 6? Should You Upgrade?

Wifi 6 uses 8×8 MU MIMO technology. This can handle up to eight connected devices that are actively using the WLAN without interference. Even better, the Wifi 6 MU MIMO upgrade is bidirectional, meaning the peripheral can connect to the router on multiple bands. This means, among other things, an improved possibility of sending information to the Internet.

8. Frequency bands

A clear difference between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 is the frequency bands of both technologies. Wifi 5 only uses the 5GHz band which offers less interference. The downside is that the signals have a shorter range and less ability to penetrate walls and other obstacles.

Wifi 6, on the other hand, uses two band frequencies, the standard 2.4GHz and the 5GHz. With Wifi 6e, developers will add a 6GHz band to the Wifi 6 family. The fact that Wifi 6 uses both 2.4GHz and 5GHz means that devices can automatically seek out the band and use it with less interference and better adequacy. This gives the user the best of both networks, faster speeds when short range is ideal and greater range when peripherals are not in the same location.

9. The availability of BSS staining

BSS coloring is another feature of Wifi 6 that sets it apart from its predecessors. It is an entirely new feature of the Wifi 6 standard. The BSS or Basic Service Sets itself is a feature of every 802.11 network. However, only Wifi 6 and future generations can decode the BSS coloring of other devices using a BSS color identifier. This feature is crucial as it helps to avoid overlapping signals.

10. Difference in latency

Latency refers to the delay in transmitting data packets from one place to another. Low latency speeds approaching zero are more optimal and indicate little or no delay. Wifi 6 offers lower latency compared to Wifi 5, making it perfect for businesses and corporate organizations. Home users will also appreciate this feature of the latest Wifi models as it always means faster internet connections.

View more:What is network management? Definition, main components and best practices

On the way to Wifi 6e: the next generation

In 2021, Wifi 6e was introduced. That was almost a year after the Wifi 6 standard was published. Wifi 6e simply means adding the 6 GHz band to existing Wifi 6 technology. Wifi 6e is not very different from Wifi 6, but it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the Internet user. Both networks are not much different as they both use the same IEEE 802.11ax standard. This makes Wifi 6e more of an extension of Wifi 6 than another generation of Wifi technology.

Still, there are some obvious differences between Wifi 6 and Wifi 6e. The most important and decisive difference between these two technologies is the opening up of a completely new frequency band for WLAN technology. Wifi 6e works on three bands, the congested and heavily congested 2.4GHz band, the crowded 5GHz band and the 6GHz band, which is only available for Wifi 6 devices. The 6GHz band exists without interference or overlap . That means less latency and of course faster speed! With the world rapidly leaning towards newer technologies like VR and 8k streaming, 6GHz is the perfect step into the future.

(Video) Just how FAST is WiFi 6?

Finally, the new Wifi 6e has more channels, including seven 160MHz channels in the 6GHz band. That's a far cry from Wifi 6, which only had one 160MHz channel on the 5GHz band. A small downside is that while the Wifi 6 bands are backwards compatible, the Wifi 6e benefit of the 6GHz band is only available for Wifi 6network hardwareDevices.

Running away

Wifi 6 is quickly becoming a wireless networking staple and will be an essential part of IT infrastructure for years to come. It is important to understand the differences between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 to move to a more robust networking scenario and decide which networking standard is right for each use case. As connectivity continues to be critical to modern businesses and enterprise IoT becomes the norm, understanding these differences and functionalities will become more important than ever.

Did we help you understand the differences between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 technologies? tell us moreFacebook,Twitter, eLinkedIn🇧🇷 We'd love to hear from you!


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What are the differences between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6? ›

WiFi 6 increases the number of streams to a new high of 12 across the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, whereas WiFi 5 has a limit of 8 in a dual band configuration. This increase of streams provides higher connection speed, and your client devices have more paths to communicate with your WiFi router.

Does Wi-Fi 6 have better range than Wi-Fi 5? ›

Yes, Wi-Fi 6 provides better wireless range. But it's not because of higher power output. The key is certain Wi-Fi 6 features can improve data rates at a given range. As Wi-Fi 5 gives way to Wi-Fi 6 as the reigning wireless LAN standard, enterprises will likely have questions about how the two standards differ.

Which are some key differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e? ›

The big differentiator that only Wi-Fi 6e has

While both standards support 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, Wi-Fi 6e does one better. It's the only wireless standard that supports the new 6 GHz frequency band. Thus, Wi-Fi 6e devices can operate within their exclusive area, thus bypassing the other two overutilized bands.

Does Wi-Fi 6 penetrate walls better? ›

WiFi-6 achieves higher speeds through more efficient data coding. While the industry has shifted to 5 GHz Wi-Fi for less interference, Wi-Fi 6 will also increase speeds on 2.4 GHz networks which is better at penetrating solid objects.

Why would I need Wi-Fi 6? ›

Wi-Fi 6 can achieve higher data transfer speeds through a variety of techniques, starting with more efficient data encoding and intelligent use of the wireless spectrum made possible by more powerful processors. Wi-Fi 6 can result in up to 75% less latency.

Do you need anything special for Wi-Fi 6? ›

You will need a Wi-Fi 6 router in order to utilize all the technologies that the new standard offers. The features of the new WiFi standard are all powered by hardware components that you won't find in older routers.

Is there a downside to Wi-Fi 6? ›

Compatibility – The most significant disadvantage of the sixth-generation wireless WiFi is that most existing devices will not be compatible with it. This means that routers, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other smart devices must have WiFi 6 certification.

Is it worth to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6? ›

Upgrading to the newest wireless standard is worth it, even if your devices don't support Wi-Fi standards higher than what you already have installed. You'll get faster speeds and be able to connect more devices without slowing down your network or causing any issues for other people who are connected wirelessly.

Do all devices benefit from Wi-Fi 6? ›

WiFi 6 routers are 100% backwards compatible with WiFi 5 and older WiFi devices. While you may not get to experience WiFi 6 from day one, you can make sure that your network is ready for new devices with WiFi 6 sooner than later.

What are the features of Wi-Fi 6? ›

Wi-Fi 6 can achieve higher data transfer speeds through a variety of techniques, starting with more efficient data encoding and intelligent use of the wireless spectrum made possible by more powerful processors. Wi-Fi 6 can result in up to 75% less latency.

What blocks Wi-Fi signal the most? ›

Concrete, with and without metal reinforcement, is one of the worst building materials for wireless signals to pass through, but masonry block and bricks can also be serious barriers for Wi-Fi. Plywood and drywall come close to zero signal loss in tests.

How many devices can connect to Wi-Fi 6? ›

Instead of broadcasting to one device, then the next, and so on, the technology allows a router to connect with several devices at the same time. Currently MU-MIMO allows routers to communicate with four devices simultaneously. Wi-Fi 6 will allow up to eight devices.

What cable to use for Wi-Fi 6? ›

What is the right cable for Wi-Fi 6? Category 6A cables, especially those from Proterial Cable America, are designed to support up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, making them perfect for Wi-Fi 6. In fact, BICSI recommends installing 2 Category 6A cables per Wi-Fi access point.

Do you really need Wi-Fi 6 at home? ›

Should You Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 Now? The short answer is likely "yes" if your current router is more than three years old. Nearly all new consumer devices, from notebooks to tablets, support Wi-Fi 6. Even if your devices are still operating on 802.11ac, it's worth the trouble to consider a Wi-Fi 6 router upgrade now.

Do I need a new modem for Wi-Fi 6? ›

You do not need to upgrade your modem to benefit from wifi 6, because wifi is managed by your router.

Is Wi-Fi 5 good enough? ›

A broadband speed of around 50 Mbps is enough to satisfy almost any online application — in a single-use, that is. That said, no matter how faster your Wi-Fi is, chances are you'll still only need, and in fact connect at, speeds slower than 1 Gbps, anyway. And Wi-Fi 5 is already fast enough to deliver all that.

Do you have to pay monthly for a Wi-Fi 6 router? ›

There's never a fee to use your own router, but there usually is a fee ($5-10 extra per month) to rent a modem from your cable or phone company. Your alternative is to buy your own modem and router, or a combination modem+router unit, and contact the cable or phone company to set it up for your connection.

What slows down your Wi-Fi the most? ›

Here are some of the most common reasons for slow WiFi: The router isn't able to transmit the wireless signal sufficiently far away. There are too many clients connecting to the internet at the same time, and the router doesn't have enough capacity for all of them.

Can a neighbor mess with your Wi-Fi? ›

If you're getting slow or delayed WiFi in your home, it could be because your neighbors are using the same channel as you. While you're not on the same network, those other devices can still interfere with yours.

Can my neighbor disrupt my internet? ›

Your neighbors' Wi-Fi may impact your speed

If you use a 2.4 GHz router and live in a densely populated area, like an apartment complex or a long row of townhomes, your neighbors' Wi-Fi networks could interfere with yours.

How many devices can WiFi 5 support? ›

Wifi 5 uses 256-QAM modulation, which is much lower than Wifi 6. In addition, Wifi 5 MU-MIMO technology comfortably allows just four devices to connect simultaneously. More devices mean congestion and bandwidth sharing leading to lesser speed for each device.

How many devices is too many for a router? ›

Wondering if you have too many devices on WiFi? Most of the wireless routers and access points state they can support about 250 devices connected at once. This WiFi connection number includes computers, cameras, tablets, mobile smartphones, appliances, and a wide variety of other devices that are now internet-enabled.

Why my laptop cannot detect Wi-Fi 6? ›

Some WiFi client devices might experience trouble connecting to the 6 GHz band due to previously configured and saved network settings. If your device can't detect or connect to the 6 GHz band, try resetting its network settings to the factory defaults, and then reconnect to your WiFi network.

How many Mbps can Wi-Fi 6 handle? ›

Generally, on the 5GHz frequency band, Wi-Fi 6 has a base speed of 1.2 Gbps (1200 Mbps) per stream. Hence, a 2×2 connection has a ceiling speed of 2.4 Gbps (2400Mbps), and a quad-stream (4×4) tops at a whopping 4.8 Gbps.

Is Wi-Fi 5 Good enough? ›

A broadband speed of around 50 Mbps is enough to satisfy almost any online application — in a single-use, that is. That said, no matter how faster your Wi-Fi is, chances are you'll still only need, and in fact connect at, speeds slower than 1 Gbps, anyway. And Wi-Fi 5 is already fast enough to deliver all that.

Is Wi-Fi 5 still worth it? ›

If your current Wi-Fi setup is serving you well, you probably don't. Most of us have internet connection speeds that Wi-Fi 5 can serve well enough. If the difference in speeds between devices connected via ethernet cables, and those connected via Wi-Fi isn't much, then your current network setup is probably fine.

What are the disadvantages of Wi-Fi 6? ›

Compatibility – The most significant disadvantage of the sixth-generation wireless WiFi is that most existing devices will not be compatible with it. This means that routers, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other smart devices must have WiFi 6 certification.

How many Mbps do I need for a house of 5? ›

We recommend about 30 Mbps per household as a good place to start if you're looking for a plan for regular internet use. But you may need less or more if you work from home, stream a lot of Netflix, play online games, or have more than four people using the same connection.

Should I upgrade from Wi-Fi 5 to 6? ›

It's an important upgrade. Wi-Fi 5 is fine, but Wi-Fi 6 improves on it by offering new radio channels that provide more bandwidth. Wi-Fi 6 also uses a pair of technologies, MU-MIMO and OFDMA, to improve a router's ability to manage traffic between devices.

Can old devices connect to Wi-Fi 6? ›

WiFi 6 routers are 100% backwards compatible with WiFi 5 and older WiFi devices. While you may not get to experience WiFi 6 from day one, you can make sure that your network is ready for new devices with WiFi 6 sooner than later.

What are the disadvantages of 5G Wi-Fi? ›

5 GHz overview
  • Pros: Higher data rate; less prone to interference; usually fewer devices using this frequency.
  • Cons: Smaller coverage area (except 802.11ac); worse at penetrating solid objects.


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