The Wi-Fi Alliance thinks that all that 802.whatever business was becoming too complicated, so get ready for a simpler naming scheme for your favorite wireless standards. For now on, the upcoming 802.11ax standard will be called Wi-Fi 6. The Alliance is also retconning past standards to match the new naming approach.

The new Wi-Fi names identify technology by generations in numerical sequence—sort of like version numbers in software or the way we identify Bluetooth versions. Here's the breakdown of the new naming scheme.

  • 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

With the new names, the Wi-Fi Alliance is also throwing its weight behind 802.11ax as the next-gen standard. Some vendors have started using 802.11ad, which adds 60GHz millimeter wave support to WiFi for higher throughput. However, that's not Wi-Fi 6. That honor goes to 802.11ax, which doesn't need new antennas. It just makes more efficient use of the same 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum.

The IEEE numbering will still exist, but it won't be included in consumer-facing marketing. You should start seeing products "Certified for Wi-Fi 6" in 2019.