WiFi 6 vs 5G: How to Benefit from this “Friendly” Rivalry?

What is the difference between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G? Compare these two awesome – and awesomely unique – technologies that can work together to deliver improved connected experiences.

Despite that there’s a constant war between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, both have coexisted for years, providing transformative networking experiences for individuals and businesses.

Wi-Fi is a form of Local Area Network (LAN) that is primarily used indoors, i.e. at workplace or inside a home.

On the other hand, cellular network is a type of Wire Area Network (WAN) that can be used both outdoors and indoors, primarily over long distances.

For years, individuals and businesses have been simultaneously using both these technologies and therefore, you need to find an optimal balance of both rather than choosing one over the other.

Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G provide increased capacity, lower latency, and higher speeds – ideal for an enhanced web browsing experience.

Here, we will compare the technologies and explain how you can leverage both to have the best value for your money and time.

5G vs WiFi 6 Differences
Img Source: Cisco

So, let’s start with understanding what the two technologies are and how they are unique.

What is WiFi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest advancement in the field of Wi-Fi technology, powered by the IEEE 802.11ax standard.

In comparison to its predecessors, Wi-Fi 6 has 75% lower latency and 4x higher capacity – delivering almost 3x the speed of Wi-Fi 5.

Anyone can use a Wi-Fi network through a dedicated broadband service. To enjoy full capacity improvements, lower latency and increased speed, Wi-Fi 6 devices will need a Wi-Fi 6 compatible access point.

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What is 5G?

5G is the latest cellular network technology that provides 1,000x increased capacity, 10x lower latency, and 50x more speed than 4G/LTE.

The leading-edge technology advancement has made it possible to transmit colossal data and connect increased devices than ever before – offering improved user experience and faster connectivity.

Mobile network carriers offer 5G network subscriptions and you are required to use a 5G-compatible device.

In the below sections, we will discuss the differences and similarities of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G technologies.

Licensed & Unlicensed Spectrum

Wi-Fi 6 technology uses unlicensed spectrum, where as 5G works on licensed spectrum.

What does this imply? Let’s understand here –

In licensed spectrum, the telecom network carriers need to bid for the spectrum and get the bandwidth. That indicates a part of the cost will be borne by the end users. As such, customers need to subscribe to avail 5G services.

5G is available over cellular network and users must have a compatible Smartphone and a new SIM card to avail the service.

On the contrary, Wi-Fi 6 works on an unlicensed spectrum, i.e. there is no cost involved in purchasing the bandwidth. As such, Wi-Fi has a lower output power and therefore, the radio signal fails to capture an extended range of service area.

Ideally, Wi-Fi 6 network services are limited to your house or building only. Users need to pay a subscription amount to avail the service.

Wi-Fi 6 Continues to be the #1 Choice for Indoor Network Coverage Whereas 5G is Best for Outdoor Networks.

With radical advancements in speed, density of connected devices, and latency – Wi-Fi 6 continues to be the ideal choice for excellent indoor network connectivity.

It is also suitable in larger areas, such as convention centers and stadiums, where dedicated access points are designed to serve more number of users.  

On the other hand, high-end promises that come with 5G – connected cars, fixed wireless, smart cities, and drones – make it a perfect choice for outdoor network.

Differences in Reach and Connectivity

Wondering if you could use your Wi-Fi 5-compatible device with Wi-Fi 6 router to enjoy increased speed and capacity?

No.

To use Wi-Fi 6, all connected devices must be compliant with the latest technology and not its predecessors.

Wi-Fi 6 is available in two bandwidth sizes – 2.4 GHz and 5GHz. Needless to say, the latter offers higher speed.

However, the 5GHz bandwidth fails to provide network connectivity through solid surfaces such as ceilings, floors, walls, or foliage.

The 2.4GHz bandwidth, on the other hand, provides improved connectivity across all surfaces within its accessible range.

Similar to Wi-Fi 6, you would need all connecting devices and your SIM card to be 5G-compliant before you could enjoy its speed and bandwidth.

However, 5G may have difficulty providing the same rock-solid network coverage through solid objects such as walls.

On the other hand, it can provide exceptional connectivity in unhindered areas. As 5G technology claims, network connectivity will also be available in moving vehicles, even in bullet trains that run at over 200 miles an hour.

Both Technologies are Built on the Same Foundation

A stark similarity of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G is they both provide support new use cases and applications, and render an immersive experience.

Both the technologies feature remarkably low latency, high throughput, and increased capacity, paving the way for IoT at scale.

Their high data rate delivery helps support advanced applications, while increase in capacity allows you to connect more devices and users seamlessly.

Wi-Fi 6 and 5G – Expanding Digitization Opportunities

Keeping pace with mammoth digitization trends in the future, it is predicted that Wi-Fi 6 and 5G technologies will work together to pave way for increased opportunities.

There will be over 152K connected IoT devices every second by 2025, suggests a study. Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G technologies are projected to offer a more seamless experience connecting mission-critical IoT devices securely via wireless.

Additionally, as Augmented and Virtual Reality continues to grow in popularity, the technologies will offer improved mobile broadband services for a more immersive experience on these devices.

WiFi 6 vs 5G: Which is Better? [Conclusion]

WiFi 6 (802.11ax)5G
Wireless LANCellular Connection
Unlicensed BandsLicensed & Unlicensed Bands
Requires ID & Password – Uses SAE (Simultaneous Authentication Equals)Simple & Easy to Connect – Uses 5G-AKA, EAP-AKA and EAP-TLS Authentication
Supports WPA3 EncryptionSupports Security Anchor Function, Subscription Identifier etc…
IoT Support; High SpeedBetter Speed than 4G
Best for Use at Fixed Locations like Office/HomeBest for Use in Outdoors or While Commuting

With only a thin line of difference in speed, latency and bandwidth capacity, both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G promises to dramatically improve performance for end consumers, organizations, and mobile workers.

Both the technologies will co-exist and deliver unprecedented connectivity to support varied use cases.

Bringing a new era of wireless network access, a convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will empower individuals and organizations to stay connected always and increase productivity.

by Radha Krishna
Hello! I am a Tech Enthusiast who likes to explore different gadgets and software applications. Here on this blog, I will be sharing my experiences and all the findings (reviews & troubleshooting tips) that I personally encounter.

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