The world is becoming increasingly online. More and more people connect to the internet continuously. Today, every house has multiple devices that connect to the internet.
You have the PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even the other household appliances like TVs, refrigerators, ACs, and IoT-enabled devices.
Therefore, almost every house has a Wi-Fi network in place. Besides, you have the smartphones connecting to the cellular network using 3G or 4G.
If Wi-Fi 6 is the new entrant in the wireless access technology, 5G is its counterpart in cellular service.
Though the common objective is to provide Internet access at lightning speeds, both these concepts differ a lot. Let us compare Wi-Fi6 and 5G in detail.
In simple words, Wi-Fi 6 is short-range wireless access technology, whereas 5G is cellular service.
The hype around 5G and Wi-Fi 6
Whenever there is news of the introduction of any new cellular standard, there is an inevitable comparison with the existing Wi-Fi services.
We witnessed the same at the time of 3G and 4G. There was talk that 3G will make 802.11b redundant. Similarly, 4G was touted to eliminate Wi-Fi 5 or the existing 802.11ac network.
Both these events did not materialise, but the technologies functioned side-by-side beautifully.
Similarly, there is a great deal of hype around 5G, with many people stating that there will be no requirement for Wi-Fi. You can rest assured that nothing of that sort will happen. This article will explore these aspects in detail.
Claims regarding 5G
The general conception is that 5G is the fastest network with a speed of 4 Gbps. Yes, it is faster than Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), as this Wi-Fi network boasts of a speed of 3.5 Gbps.
In comparison, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) has a top speed of 9.6 Gbps. Thus, Wi-Fi 6 is faster than the 5G.
However, the question is whether you need such speeds?
The fastest download speed in the US is 72 Mbps, which is not even 1% of the maximum speed that Wi-Fi 6 can offer. However, Wi-Fi 6 is not only about speeds. Other factors matter, as well.
The Potential for 5G
- 5G offers higher-speed connectivity than 4G.
- 5G, being a cellular service, uses a licensed spectrum. Therefore, it eliminates all potential interferences that one associates with Wi-Fi technology.
- Similar to the 4G LTE technologies, 5G can be offered by cellular wireless carriers. It can also be supplied as a private network.
- As on date, 5G is not available. Therefore, 4G will continue to be the benchmark for cellular services. One expects the rollout of 5G in the next four to five years, and that too in the major cities alone. It will take time before it will be available pan-India.
The Potential for Wi-Fi 6
- Wi-Fi 6 has been introduced in September 2019. You have some of the latest laptops, especially those with 10th generation Intel CPUs supporting Wi-Fi 6.
- Among the mobile phones, Samsung S10 is available with the Snapdragon 855 processor that can support Wi-Fi 6.
- Wi-Fi 6 can theoretically offer a maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps with low latency, improved aggregate bandwidth, and an advanced traffic management system.
- Wi-Fi 6 comes with better security protocols in the form of WPA3.
Wi-Fi 6 Vs. 5G – Similarities and Differences
5G uses a licensed spectrum, whereas Wi-Fi 6 works on an unlicensed spectrum.
Licensed spectrum entails that telecom companies will bid for the spectrum and purchase the bandwidth. This expense will naturally pass on to the ultimate customer.
Therefore, the user will have to subscribe to the services. The service providers need to roll out a network of base stations for covering as large an area as possible.
Wi-Fi leverages an unlicensed spectrum that is available free of charge. However, the output power is low. Therefore, the radio signal will not have an extended range.
It will be restricted to the individual house or building. Consumers have to pay a subscription fee to the internet service provider.
5G will be available over the cellular network. Hence, users should have 5G-compatible smartphones to use this service. They have to subscribe to a new SIM card.
Wi-Fi 6 users will have to invest in a new Wi-Fi 6 router to enjoy the full benefits.
Similarly, the connecting devices also have to compliant with Wi-Fi 6. One cannot expect to get Wi-Fi 6 speeds by connecting a Wi-Fi 5-compliant appliance to the Wi-Fi 6 router.
Wi-Fi 6 will be available in two bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, similar to the existing mode. The difference is in the speeds.
However, the 5GHz band does not penetrate solid surfaces like walls, ceilings, floors, and foliage. However, the 2.4GHz band will be available within the accessible range.
Similarly, 5G will experience difficulty penetrating solid objects like walls. However, 5G will display excellent connectivity in unobstructed areas.
Users can also enjoy the 5G experience in moving vehicles. One can access 5G even in bullet trains travelling at more than 200 miles an hour.
One can connect their laptops to 5G using the mobile hotspot, similar to how one connects over 4G. In the case of PCs without Wi-Fi facility, it is possible to access 5G using dongles and routers.
5G is excellent for providing connectivity outdoors, whereas Wi-Fi 6 is excellent for indoor connectivity. However, both the technologies work at their best within their respective range. The farther the distance, the lower is the data rate.
Benefits of 5G
- 5G offers excellent mobility when compared to Wi-Fi 6.
- One can use 5G while roaming, as well. However, the service will require authentication from the user because of the stipulation of additional charges.
- Using 5G, one can provide WAN connectivity to a retail site or a pop-up office.
- When experiencing data congestion, 5G can offload traffic.
- One can also expect 5G technology to improve, whereby it can offer connectivity options for low-power IoT devices.
Benefits of Wi-Fi 6
- Wi-Fi 6 enables a large number of devices to connect to it. While connecting your laptops, PCs, and several smartphones, Wi-Fi 6 will be available for watching your favourite programmes on Netflix (TV) and also offer connectivity to a host of household IoT appliances simultaneously.
- Wi-Fi 6 requires less power and, thereby, enhances the battery life of the devices connecting to the router.
- Wi-Fi 6 offers a high level of security because the devices that connect to it should be compatible with the WPA3 security protocol.
- Wi-Fi 6 is different because of its distributed concept. This concept consists of installing the central router at the front door, and smaller satellite routers inside every room or floor. It ensures that the entire house gets high-quality internet connectivity.
- Wi-Fi 6 introduces an exciting crossover product known as the FRITZ Box 6890. This box has a SIM card and uses LTE similar to how the cellular services operate. Thus, users can use their mobile hotspots to connect their devices like tablets and smartphones to the internet.
Which is the better option, 5G or Wi-Fi 6?
Before deciding on the better option, let us explore five things one should know about 5G and Wi-Fi 6.
Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G have similar objectives, and that is to provide high-speed internet connectivity. Despite all the hype, both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will co-exist with each other. Compared to their respective earlier versions, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 can support new applications and connect to more devices.
When it comes to making choices for indoor networks, Wi-Fi 6 should gain precedence over 5G because of its low latency, higher speed, and a larger density of connected devices. It is one of the best when it comes to areas having more access points and users like stadiums, conference halls, and convention centres.
Similarly, 5G is the better option when it comes to outdoor networks.
5G can provide excellent connectivity in fast-moving vehicles like cars on a highway or even trains travelling at high speeds.
Both 5G and Wi-Fi are excellent for the industrial sector, such as manufacturing, automation, healthcare, and energy. Users can benefit from an immersive experience via augmented and virtual reality.
Wi-Fi 6 has already made its appearance in 2019. By 2020 end, one can expect more compatible devices and access points for Wi-Fi 6.
5G will roll out gradually in a few years. It will be available in the US, Europe, China, and Japan by around 2021.
India might get 5G sometime in 2023, depending on the sale of the spectrum and the political circumstances prevailing at that time.
As a dedicated consumer, one should not be much worried because they can have the best of both worlds. Use Wi-Fi 6 inside your homes and connect every possible device you have. While outdoors, subscribe to a 5G service and enjoy tremendous speeds when travelling.
Three Crucial Aspects to consider
Many people believe that cellular technologies are more secure when compared to Wi-Fi. LTE is safe, but it is prone to vulnerabilities like data interception and device tracking. However, 5G provides multiple authentication features and better key management facilities. Wi-Fi 6 offers high security in the form of a WPA3 security protocol.
5G offers tremendous speed, especially in the range of 4 Gbps. However, Wi-Fi 6 can provide higher speed and better latency, spectral efficiency, connection density, and reliability. 5G is better than 4G, as it comes with additional features like network splice, connection density, and integrated Edge Compute.
5G uses licensed spectrum, and thus has a reputation for being a reliable service. However, that does not entail that Wi-Fi 6 is not reliable. Though it operates on an unlicensed spectrum, it is highly reliable.
The Cost Factor
5G is not yet available. Hence, one does not know how much it will cost. However, one should have devices that are compatible with 5G to enjoy the full benefits of the service.
Wi-Fi 6 has arrived but is available only on specific devices today. One needs to invest in a new Wi-Fi 6 router. You also need your device to support Wi-Fi 6 to be able to enjoy the speeds associated with Wi-Fi 6.
Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are distinct concepts. 5G is better off by serving business apps that require high-speed mobility and macro-coverage. Wi-Fi 6 is a cost-effective technology in comparison that offers reliable and secure internet connectivity for most enterprise locations. When indoors, use Wi-Fi 6. 5G is excellent for use outdoors.
Srinivasa is Vsbytes’s Editor-In-Chief. He Is A Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert And Has Been Interested In Computer Hardware, Software, And Gaming Right Since The Time He Was A Child.