From 11 Mbps with 802.11b up to above 1 Gbps in the 802.11ac and 802.11ax evolution of the protocol, here is a quick tool to calculate the theoretical physical throughput depending on the Wi-Fi generation and its parameters.


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Evolution of Wi-Fi

With 5 versions of 802.11 protocol in the market today and a 6th one coming up for 2019, the throughput delivered by each version has increased nearly 1000x from 11 Mbps to 10 Gbps. Here is a recap:

Release Year Maximum
Main Changes
802.11a 1999 54 Mbps OFDM
20 MHz in 5 GHz band
802.11b 1999 11 Mbps DSSS
20 MHz in 2.4 GHz band
802.11g 2003 54 Mbps OFDM as in 802.11a
20 MHz in 2.4 GHz band
802.11n 2009 600 Mbps 40 MHz in 2.4/5 GHz bands
4 spatial streams
802.11ac 2013 2.3 Gbps 160 MHz in 5 GHz band
8 spatial streams
256 QAM
802.11ax 2019 10 Gbps OFDMA
in 2.4 and 5 GHz bands
1024 QAM

Calculate the Wi-Fi throughput


Wi-Fi works on chunks of 20 MHz bandwidth, which can be combined in the most advanced versions of Wi-Fi, and which carry data using modulation ranging from BPSK up to 1024 QAM. Throughput can be calculated as follows (credits to Cisco) :


Wi-Fi throughput calculation principle

You will need to take into account some additional parameters such as the coding rate and the guard interval size to come up with the raw physical throughput advertised in the commercials.

This wifi-802.11-throughput-calculator is an Excel file that will help you play with the parameters to see how one parameter influence the overall performance.

However note that this template does not work for earlier versions of 802.11 (a and b) and might be not fully up-to-date for the work in progress version (ax). If you spot any issue or have any feedback on this file, feel free to comment this article!