These days, the need for content streaming, connected devices and internet of things has exploded. This puts pressure for faster and more reliable communications networks. Fortunately, technology has evolved accordingly and brings solutions to these increasing needs. So, Wi-Fi 6 or 5G wireless Networks – Which and Why? We will try to answer this question.
Both technologies aim to reach faster connections, increase capacity, and reduce latency. But each uses a different approach and is meant for different applications. Therefore, we should see them as complementary. Now, this might be confusing for network operators when deciding which type of connection to use. We will try to summarize both technologies and help you choose the best solution.
What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is a type of local area network (LAN) using a short-distance protocol, meaning it can cover areas of a few hundred meters. It is primarily used indoor such as inside a home or office environment. It operates on 5 to 7 GHz bands. In this spectrum, the channel size is limited to 80MHz, thus restricting the number of devices connecting simultaneously. However, with the use of the IEEE 802.11ax standard and the capacity to support 1024-QAM, MU-MIMO or FDMA technologies, Wi-Fi 6 brings higher channel efficiency in a dense networking environment. It delivers 4x higher capacity and 75% less latency than its predecessor. Even though Wi-Fi 6 can offer nearly 3x the speed, the goal here is less to boost speed for individual devices but rather to improve the network’s global performance and stability. Even when multiple devices are connected at the same time.
Wi-Fi 6 uses unlicensed spectrum and has a lower cost to deploy. It is also easier to maintain and scale. This is especially true when access points must serve multiple users. When correctly managed, this type of network will offer great performance to multiple data-hungry devices (PC’s, laptop, smartphone, TV, streaming devices, etc).
What about 5G?
While 5G, shares similar technologies with Wi-Fi 6, it is designed for a different purpose. It operates in low, mid and high bands, going up to milimeter waves. It is a type of wide area network (WAN) with signal reaching kilometers. In milimeter waves, there is plenty of spectrum available. This allows for an impressive number of connected devices and faster than ever data transmission. Therefore, 5G will be widely used by major cellular providers to enhance user experience as it can deliver up to 50x more speed, 10x less latency, and 1,000x more capacity than 4G/LTE.1
While 5G offers impressive performance, there are a few drawbacks. Deployement is far more complex and requires more expertise to maintain. It usually operates on dedicated, licensed spectrums, which increase overall installation and maintenance costs. This is why it is mainly use by carriers. For many businesses, 5G performance are well over their needs and the complexity of the structure and high-cost of maintenance makes it a less suitable option.
On the other hand, due to its low latency and ultra-high-speed, some organizations might benefit from using 5G. Connected cars, smart city deployment, large manufacturing operations using high-precision and stability-sensitive equipment are just a few examples.
Wi-Fi 6 or 5G wireless networks – Which and Why?
Of course, these are just a few characteristics of each technology. There are exceptions to these generalizations and at the end of the day, choosing between Wi-Fi 6 or 5G will depend on the specific user’s reality.
As Wi-Fi and cellular wireless technologies continue to evolve in parallel, the core networks that are the backbone for all Internet connectivity are transforming as well. Our team of specialists at Safda Solutions is here to assist you in planning network solutions to fit your enterprise’s specific needs and reality.
Here is an interesting resource to learn more about Wi-Fi 6 and 5G (English only):