I would like to know if Wi-Fi can be generally referred to as the IEEE 802.11 standard or if the latter is a more general family.

  • Here is an article that explains that Wi-Fi and IEEE 802.11 are really the same thing: Wi-Fi 6 is coming to a router near you. For example, the 60 GHz versions of IEEE 802.11 are still Wi-Fi, even though they are not consumer products.
    – Ron Maupin
    Oct 10, 2018 at 3:02
  • Thanks for sharing that link, please could you specifically put your answer in the context of the Internet of Things i.e are all IoT devices using 802.11 WiFi Certified? That would be more beneficial for other readers in the future. Oct 13, 2018 at 6:30
  • 1
    "are all IoT devices using 802.11 WiFi Certified?" If they are using 802.11, they are using Wi-Fi, but they may not have certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance (costs time and money, but the chipsets used are probably certified because there are very few chipset vendors), but the actual preferred IoT wireless network is 6LoWPAN (IEEE 802.15.4) because it is useful for low-power, tiny IoT devices like sensors, and it has compression for IPv6.
    – Ron Maupin
    Oct 13, 2018 at 12:43

5 Answers 5


Wi-Fi is IEEE 802.11, the same way that ethernet is IEEE 802.3, token ring is IEEE 802.5, FDDI is IEEE 802.8, etc.

These are some of the IEEE LAN protocols, and the IEEE working groups associated with the protocols. See this answer for more IEEE 802 working groups.


IEEE 802.11 is a standard that describes procedures, limits, values, algorithms to enstablish a WLAN connection.

Wi-Fi is a brand name owned by the Wi-Fi Alliance that certifies with pre-defined tests the interoperability between all device with this mark. WiFi devices are based on IEEE 802.11.

Not every device that uses IEEE 802.11 is Wi-Fi cerified.

  • 2
    In my opinion this is the best answer (although it should always read "Wi-Fi", not "WiFi" or "Wifi"). In the first days of IEEE 802.11, compatibility was a great problem as the standards apparently lacked some details. The Wi-Fi Alliance and their logo tests may have been the key to achieve inter-manufacturer interoperability and push 802.11 into the end-user market.
    – Dubu
    Sep 27, 2018 at 14:52
  • 1
    Being certified may be a requirement to use the Wi-Fi trademark in commerce, but in casual conversation people are not restricted by trademarks. Like people who use the term "coke" to refer to any type of soda, not just Coca-Cola. So it really depends on the context the question is intended in.
    – Barmar
    Sep 28, 2018 at 16:33

In Short,Wi-Fi is more of a technology name and 802.11 is the IEEE standard. There are different variants of 802.11 based on your bandwidth ,Modulation schemes etc.

I would always use the specific standard in documents and datasheets instead of just mentioning Wi-Fi.This will help to give a clear cut information to the reader and engineers as well.

The below mentioned are the types of 802.11 standards

3.1 802.11-1997 (802.11 legacy)
3.2 802.11a (OFDM waveform)
3.3 802.11b
3.4 802.11g
3.5 802.11-2007
3.6 802.11n
3.7 802.11-2012
3.8 802.11ac
3.9 802.11ad
3.10    802.11af
3.11    802.11-2016
3.12    802.11ah
3.13    802.11ai
3.14    802.11aj
3.15    802.11aq
3.16    802.11ax
3.17    802.11ay

802.11 are the IEEE specifications that implement wireless local area networks. In common parlance I think 802.11 is more or less synonomous with Wi-Fi. Note that Wi-Fi is actually a trademarked term of the Wi-Fi Alliance.


Wi-fi is a brand that many manufactures and people use because it sounds nice. Most of these use variations of IEEE 802.11 but technically don't have to.

IEEE 802.11 is nothing more a set of technical standards that should be strictly adhered to. A device that is IEEE 802.11 compatible works with that set of standards. This makes it able to communicate properly with other IEEE 802.11 devices. Most devices that implement these standards can have a wi-fi sticker slapped on them, with permission from the Wifi Alliance.

Other radios such as the Ubquiti Airmax Nano Beam point to point radios are not considered to be wifi because the use different protocols and are used in different use case scenarios. People expect wifi to be accessible from their computers or portable devices.

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