5G vs. Wi-Fi: How They’re Different and Why You’ll Need Both

The era of 5G has arrived, and while it hasn’t necessarily sparked the mobile revolution that some have been waiting for, it may well do in the next few years. Current 5G technology offers minimal improvements in download speeds, but ultimately it should dramatically improve download speeds, nearly eliminate latency, and reduce congestion on mobile networks.

In other words, 5G is going to give Wi-Fi its money’s worth.

While Wi-Fi and 5G will be pitted against each other, all signs are that we probably need both technologies to take full advantage of tomorrow’s internet. While 5G will undoubtedly be useful in many situations, Wi-Fi, which is still under development and updating, will be useful in other situations. And they might end up working together, as in the case of 5G home internet.

What is the difference between 5G and Wi-Fi?

We have a detailed explanation of what 5G is, but in short, 5G is the umbrella term for the fifth generation of mobile network technology, and it encompasses many different elements. Cellular or mobile networks are based on licensed frequency bands, which are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Operators, like Verizon and AT&T, have to pay to use these bands. To deploy coverage, they must build a network of connected base stations capable of sending a signal strong enough that the network can serve several people (thousands in urban areas) at a time. To recover their investment, they rely on us for the payment of subscriptions.

coaxi router

Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Wi-Fi relies on unlicensed spectrum that is free to everyone but has a relatively weak signal. We pay an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to provide the Internet to our doorstep, then we use a router to fill our house with Wi-Fi. Using the same frequency band as your neighbors can be a problem, especially if you live in a very densely populated area. The two frequencies used by Wi-Fi are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Simply put, 2.4GHz has a lower potential maximum speed but penetrates better, so it has a longer range than 5GHz, which on the other hand can provide faster speeds but doesn’t get into things as easily. like the walls.

It should be noted that 5 GHz Wi-Fi has absolutely nothing to do with 5G mobile networks.

In everyday life, most of us rely on Wi-Fi at home or in the office – or in coffee shops – and on mobile networks when we walk out of the front door and out of the door. range of the router. Our phones switch on automatically and we don’t think about it; the important thing is just to have a good connection at all times. This scenario will continue to be the case for the vast majority of people as 5G continues to unfold. The difference is that mobile networks and Wi-Fi will see their performance improve.

The promise of 5G

The prospect of download speeds between 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps and a download speed, or latency, of just 1 millisecond (ms) has got people excited about 5G. These speeds are comparable to what you would see from a physical Ethernet connection. However, the reality is that we will generally not reach the theoretical maximum speeds. And even if we did, it wouldn’t be for at least a few years.

The actual speed of your 5G connection will depend on many factors including where you are, what network you connect to, how many other people are connecting, and what device you are using. The goal is to achieve a minimum download speed of 50 Mbps and a latency of 10 ms. This will be a major improvement over current average speeds, but just like with 4G LTE, 5G coverage will slowly expand. Currently we are at a way download speed of around 57 Mbps, according to a study by Speedcheck. This means that the minimum is much lower than that.

It will also work hand in hand with not only Wi-Fi, but also previous generations of mobile network technology, so 4G LTE will continue to be offered as a fallback and will likely continue to evolve and become faster.

The promise of Wi-Fi 6

Benefits of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Intel

Wi-Fi has traditionally been very confusing in terms of standard naming conventions. It went from 802.11b to 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11n, then 802.11ac.

The Wi-Fi Alliance (and the industry as a whole) have accepted the need for something less confusing, so the next standard, 802.11ax, is marketed as Wi-Fi 6. This naming convention simpler is also applied retroactively, so 802.11ac will become Wi-Fi 5, and so on.

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard offers speeds at least four times faster than Wi-Fi 5 under certain conditions, but it also brings efficiency and capacity improvements designed to cope with the growing number of devices. connected to the Internet in the average house. Much like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 will complement, not replace, existing Wi-Fi standards, especially given that real devices will also need to support newer versions of Wi-Fi. Theoretically, speeds Wi-Fi 6 peaks hit around 9.6 Gbps, but you’ll probably never reach that in the real world.

What do you need to enjoy 5G or Wi-Fi 6?

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

At this point, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are pretty widely available. On the 5G side, operators have now rolled out nationwide 5G networks based on Sub-6 spectrum – and they are ready to continue to expand that network and add mid and high band frequencies to complement it.

To access Wi-Fi 6, you will need a router that supports the standard, and you will also need devices that support it. Most new smartphones support both 5G and Wi-Fi 6, especially when it comes to high-end devices. Ultimately, all phones, computers, etc. will support both standards.

The future of Internet connectivity

As more routers integrate Wi-Fi 6 and more cell towers broadcast 5G networks, our internet speeds, at home and on the go, will be faster, with lower latency. Other technologies will also emerge. As 4G advances, like online mobile gaming and mobile streaming, 5G will enable a range of new use cases, like connected cars.

Of course, only time will tell what the future really holds for internet connectivity, but expect to hear the terms “5G” and “Wi-Fi 6” a lot more over the next several years.

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