Cable Modems Explained: Wi-Fi 6 vs 802.11ac

Learn > Cable Modem & Routers > Cable Modems Explained: Wi-Fi 6 vs 802.11ac

The first version of Wi-Fi was called 802.11. As new generations came out, the name was represented as 802.11 followed by a combination of letters. For example, 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n. The difference between these standards is the bandwidth speed, frequency range and backward compatibility.

In recent years, the Wi-Fi Alliance changed the naming convention for different generations of Wi-Fi standards. They moved away from the 802.11 name to a more streamlined name that follows this format: Wi-Fi [number]. For example:

  • 11g is now called Wi-Fi 3
  • 11n is now called Wi-Fi 4
  • 11ac is now called Wi-Fi 5
  • 11ax is now called Wi-Fi 6


How this Affects Your Cable Modem

You can get fast cable Internet in your home with a cable modem (this is a wired connection). To get a wireless connection, or Wi-Fi with a modem, you need to pair your modem with a router. Or, use a cable modem router (also called a gateway).

It doesn’t matter if you choose a router or cable modem router, but this is where the different Wi-Fi standards matter.

To get high-speed Wi-Fi you either need a cable modem router that supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). Or, you need a Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 wireless router paired with your cable modem. Which one you choose depends on your needs. Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with Wi-Fi 5 features. However, Wi-Fi 5 will not support Wi-Fi 6 features. Here is the difference between what Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 offer:


Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) vs Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)

Here are some key differences between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6:


  • Wi-Fi 5: standard maximum throughput speed of 3.5 Gbps.
  • Wi-Fi 6: standard maximum throughput speed of 9.5 Gbps.

Multi-user (MU-MIMO)

  • Wi-Fi 5: wireless access point can talk to more than one device at a time, but it cannot respond at the same time.
  • Wi-Fi 6: wireless access point can talk to and respond to all devices at the same time.


  • Wi-Fi 5: Vulnerable to congestion that greatly slows down speeds.
  • Wi-Fi 6: OFDMA technology enables the router and connected devices to use bandwidth more efficiently. This helps cut through congestion and increased speeds.

For the best Internet experience, invest in Wi-Fi 6. Cable modem router combos (gateways) like one of Hitron’s modems/modem routers makes home networking an easier, better experience overall. Ask your Internet service provider (ISP) about Hitron’s DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1, Wi-Fi 6 ready cable modem routers today.

For more information on home networking solutions check out Hitron’s Learn Page.


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