Question: What are the wireless speeds of 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ax wireless standards?

When we talk about wireless speed, it’s more accurate to describe it as bandwidth, means the theoretical maximum amount of data sent/received in certain time period, such as Megabits per second (Mbps) or Gigabits per second (Gbps). However, you can still call it as speed if you like (easier to understand).

- The bandwidth of 802.11a standard is 54Mbps and it works in 5GHz band only. This higher frequency use as compared to 802.11b shortens the range of 802.11a networks. The higher frequency also means 802.11a signals have more difficulty to penetrate walls and other obstructions, but the beauty is that the wireless device is able to transfer more data in less time on 5 GHz wireless network as compared with 2.4 GHz network.

- The bandwidth of 802.11b standard is 11Mbps and it works in 2.4 GHz band only. It's widely use in home network but the signal can be easily interfered by the electrical devices operating in 2.4 GHz, such as microwave ovens, cordless phone, Bluetooth devices, amateur radio equipment and so on.

- The bandwidth of 802.11g(successor of 802.11b) standard is 54Mbps and it works in 2.4 GHz band only. 802.11g is also compatible with 802.11b products because they both use the same radio frequency (2.4GHz) to transmit data over the airwaves.

- The bandwidth of 802.11n standard is 300Mbps and it can operate in 2.4 GHz and 5GHz bands. The jump of the supported speed is mainly due to the use of multiple multiple-input multiple-output antennas (MIMO) on the 802.11n devices. MIMO technology allows the wireless device to send and receive data to reduce error and boost speed. 802.11n is backward compatible with 802.11a (5GHz band), 802.11b (2.4GHz band) and 802.11g (2.4GHz band) products.

- The bandwidth of 802.11ac standard is 1 Gbps (Gigabits WiFi) and it works in 5 GHz band only, but still it is backwards compatible with 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11b and 802.11a wireless standards. This means you can buy 802.11ac device and still it will work just fine with your existing router. 802.11ac is called as Wi-Fi 5 by WiFi Alliance too.

- The bandwidth of 802.11ax or WiFi 6 is up to 10 Gbps. It's going to support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It is 4x to 10x faster than existing Wi-Fi 5, and also will allow many devices connecting to wireless network without causing serious congestion issue. This is because its MU-MIMO and OFDMA capabilities greatly improve wireless capacity and performance by enabling more simultaneous connections and much thorough use of frequency.

- How about WiFi 6E? Ok! WiFi 6E uses the same IEEE specifications as WiFi 6 but with additional spectrum capabilities! The “E” in Wi-Fi 6E stands for “Extended”, which means not only it can operate in 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands but also additional 6GHz band. In general wireless network operated in 6GHz band will provide faster speed with lower latency compared to the other two frequency bands. The other benefit is that 6GHz band will not suffer from interference coming from other home wireless devices (microwave oven, baby monitors, walkie-talkies, etc.) that operate in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band, which can be very attractive option if your wireless network performance is frequently interfered and affected by other home wireless devices.

What is next wireless standard? Well! It's called 802.11be or WiFi 7 and still work in progress by IEEE. From my understanding it will provide bandwidth up to 30Gbps with low latency, and many other new capabilities.