802.11ac vs 802.11ax: Which is Better?

Learn > Cable Modem & Routers > 802.11ac vs 802.11ax: Which is Better?

802.11ac and 802.11ax are different wireless (WiFi) technology standards that are present in WiFi routers or gateways.  WiFi and Internet capabilities are constantly evolving. Up until 2019, the most common wireless standard called for 802.11ac, also referred to as WiFi 5. However, in late 2019, 802.11ax (also known as WiFi 6) was launched, providing enhanced capabilities over its predecessor. These two WiFi standards are important to understand because they determine what devices you will need for your home network, which features they support, and the overall performance of your WiFi.


What is 802.11ac (WiFi 5)?

802.11ac is the 5th generation in WiFi standards and was introduced around 2013.  802.11ac is commonly referred to as WiFi 5 and was developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to achieve gigabit speeds, meaning WiFi 5 could provide speeds up to 3.5 Gbps under optimal conditions.  In addition to faster speeds, WiFi 5 offered wider WiFi frequency channels that allowed wireless devices to send and receive more data, resulting in faster overall performance.  WiFi 5 (802.11ac) also introduced MU-MIMO technology that facilitated data to be sent to multiple devices simultaneously.   Most notably, WiFi 5 was developed to only use the 5GHz wireless frequency, rather than both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.


What is 802.11ax (WiFi 6)?

802.11ax, or WiFi 6, is the latest WiFi standard and is the highest performing.  WiFi 6 is capable of speeds up to 9.6 Gbps which means its faster than WiFi 5, making it better for video streaming, online gaming and more high-bandwidth applications.  WiFi 6 offers more efficient data management for faster speeds and supports both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies for faster Internet across both frequency channels.  A new feature called “Targeted Wake Time (TWT)” allows your router to put the WiFi connection to “sleep” when not in use, saving the battery life of your smartphones, laptops and other connected devices until they are needed.  WiFi 6 has the power to higher number of connected devices and deliver more data to those devices, meaning you will have a much faster and more efficient Internet connection to all devices.

So, is WiFi 6 better than WiFi 5?

Yes, but with that yes comes an explanation as to WiFi 6’s key benefits and what ultimately makes it better than WiFi 5. WiFi 6’s key benefits include:

  • Next-generation WiFi technology
  • Faster speeds and performance
  • Can handle more connected devices without additional latency or lag
  • Better 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum performance
  • Increased MU-MIMO capacity from 4×4 (WiFi 5) to 8×8 (WiFi 6)
  • More capacity to deliver more data simultaneously to many connected devices

With any latest and greatest technology (wireless protocol included), increased capabilities are a given. WiFi 6 is no different. WiFi 6 offers multiple access channels, meaning one wireless channel can be divided into several different sub-channels, allowing more devices to be connected with the same fast speeds.  WiFi 6 is especially useful for areas with a large number of people who are connected to WiFi and/or Internet, such as at hotels, airports, and stadiums.

Additionally, WiFi 6 promises faster speeds and increased range across compatible devices, so lag-times and disrupted connectivity are things of the past. While WiFi 6 still uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, the dual-band capacity helps more devices stream faster than they could on WiFi 5. Overall, WiFi 6 is faster, but it also is more efficient with its signal.


Are WiFi 5 devices compatible with WiFi 6 devices?

Even though WiFi 6 (802.11ax) has been around for over a year, it is still important to transition your WiFi 5 hardware to hardware that is compatible with WiFi 6. You will need a WiFi 6 router and modem to truly reap all the benefits of WiFi 6, regardless of how many WiFi 6 devices in your home – the router is key.  If you are experiencing a slow Internet connection, consider a WiFi 6 router since it is the newest and highest performing WiFi standard on the market.

Interested in learning more about WiFi 6 and Home Networking? Check out Hitron’s Learn page or Blog.

NEW! Now Available at Retail!

CODA DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem

Related Articles

What is WPS on my Router?

If you’ve looked closely at your WiFi router, you might have noticed a button marked “WPS” somewhere on it. What is this button? Why is it there and should you press it? Great questions. WPS stands for WiFi Protected Setup.  A router with a WPS button can allow any...

When Should I Reset vs Restart my Cable Modem?

When you should do a cable modem restart or reset depends on the situation. It’s extremely important to understand these terms as the function of these terms have different meanings. In simple terms, to restart or reboot your modem means to turn off your modem and...

What is WiFi 6 and Is WiFi 6 Really Better?

WiFi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) is the most recent version of WiFi. It’s the best version of WiFi to date, with more support, faster speeds, less network congestion, better security, improved battery life for devices, and more. If you are looking for the latest and...

How do I set up my cable modem?

There are differences in setting up your cable modem whether you purchased or rented the device. If you bought your own cable modem, you should check the user manual or manufacturers' support website for specific details. For example, Xfinity (Comcast) and other Cable...

Can I use any cable modem for Cable Internet?

The right cable modem or cable modem router combo to use to get cable Internet in your home depends on a few things: Whether you are renting vs buying Certification and compatibility with your Service Provider Must-have features to consider For example, if your...

These Hitron products are now available on Amazon!

You can own high-quality, Carrier-grade products!

Coax Cable Tester

DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem

MoCA 2.5 Coax to Ethernet Adapter

Featured Articles


Buying vs Renting a Router

Should you invest in your own Internet equipment and buy a router instead of renting one from your Internet service provider (ISP)? It depends on the cost and your preferences. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

What is a Router?

A router is a small box that translates data from your modem to communicate a Wi-Fi signal to the devices on your local network. Learn more.

Why Buy a Gateway Instead of a Modem?

Should you invest in your own Internet equipment and buy a gateway or cable modem router instead of a modem? Or, should you rent it from your Internet service provider (ISP)? It depends on cost and your preferences. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Let me know when the OS2210 is available?