Wi-Fi Standards

Wi-Fi 5 (or IEEE 802.11ac) is currently the most accessible Wi-Fi standard, providing high wireless speeds on the 5GHz band. The standard is often referred to simply as "Wireless ac" or "Wi-Fi ac", much like its predecessors 802.11a/b/g/n are referred to as "Wireless a/b/g/n" or "Wi-Fi a/b/g/n".

Although 802.11ac is the most commonly available Wi-Fi standard, it isn't the fastest one available. Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, was introduced in 2019 and is currently the fastest Wi-Fi standard.

Speed

The 802.11ac standard is capable of fast speeds, generally between 100 to 400 Mbps, depending on your router, the client device, and the environment.

Most mobile technology built after 2015 uses 802.11ac, and the majority of newer mobile phones built after 2019 are capable of both 802.11ax and 802.11ac.

Keep in mind that 802.11ac, despite being widely available, only became available in 2013 and wasn't widely accessible until 2015. If you are using an older router (manufactured before 2015), you are limiting yourself to the older and slower Wi-Fi standards of its time.

Standard 2.4G or 5G Theoretical Max Speed Typical Real-world Top Speed Introduced
802.11a 5 GHz 54 Mbps approx 20 Mbps 1999
802.11b 2.4 GHz 11 Mbps approx 6 Mbps 1999
802.11g 2.4 GHz 54 Mbps approx 20 Mbps 2003
802.11n 2.4 GHz 150 Mbps approx 70 Mbps 2007
802.11n 5 GHz 150 Mbps* approx 90 Mbps 2007
802.11ac 5 GHz 866 Mbps* approx 225 Mbps 2013
802.11ax 5 GHz 3.5 Gbps approx 500 Mbps 2019

*Indicates "per stream"

Achieving even faster speeds

On the 5 GHz band, the wireless N and AC standards support a technology called MIMO, meaning "multiple-input, multiple-output." Modern routers have multiple 5G antennas and can send data to multiple devices at once (to devices A, B, and C all at once... rather than A, then B, then C like older routers).

MIMO also allows combining multiple 5G antennas when a device (computer, phone, etc.) also has more than one 5G antenna. This is how certain devices can surpass the approximate real-world maximum of a single 802.11ac link.

For example, if a device has two 5G antennas (sometimes referred to as a "2x2" antenna), it can bond the two together. The effect is best achieved when you have line-of-sight to the router, and while it is not a perfect doubling of speed, it can be a drastic improvement.

The Ting router has seven antennas supporting MIMO, with three on the 2.4G band and four on the 5G band. Most modern third-party routers have this feature.

Keep in mind most client devices do not have more than a single 5 GHz antenna and will not benefit from MIMO technology. However, some higher-end devices may.

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