It goes without saying that the internet has considerably transformed today’s world. A significant trend currently ruling the market is connecting ‘things’ using the network and analysing the data derived from them – popularly known as, IoT. Implementation of IoT requires a combination of some key technologies which include 5G, Wi-Fi 6, edge computing, AI-based analytics and new security frameworks. No single technology or approach satisfies all the requirements.
Our last blog provided an insight into the latest generation of mobile networks, 5G. This blog attempts to compare the state of the art technologies 5G and Wi-Fi 6 in various key aspects.
Learn more about Wi-Fi 6 in our previous blog, A Brief Introduction to Wi-Fi 6
5G and Wi-Fi 6 represent different dimensions of wireless connectivity. However, both function on the same technological building blocks – Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) and higher-order modulation. Compared to the predecessors 4G LTE and 802.11.ac, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are better in terms of performance and economics.
The following are the few factors which differentiate 5G and Wi-Fi 6.
- Customer Requirement
5G can be employed when there is a need for macro coverage, mobility and the additional charges are affordable. Wi-Fi 6 can be deployed when there is a need for high in-building mobility. Though Wi-Fi 6 doesn’t offer high speeds while roaming, it is on par with 5G in terms of throughput, spectral efficiency, latency and connection density.
One of the significant difference between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 is economics. Wi-Fi 6 is economical compared to 5G. To sell among enterprises, service providers would need to offer 5G service at a competitive cost to Wi-Fi 6.
Usually, macrocellular technology fails to provide enterprise-grade service as it cannot penetrate buildings. Hence, to establish 5G Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) or small cells need to be deployed to extend macro coverage indoors. DAS and small cell systems are considerably more expensive than Wi-Fi 6 components, both in terms of installation and maintenance.
5G cellular networks and DAS systems function over licensed spectrum, which costs billions of dollars. Also, the cost to implement 5G based access doesn’t stop with the network. 5G requires all devices like laptops, printers or TVs to contain 5G compatible cellular modems. These modems typically cost more than a hundred dollars. Majority of the present devices do not provide cellular modems and would need to be upgraded or outfitted with external dongles. To adopt 5G, customers would need to pay the additional cost and replace most of their equipment.
- Network Reliability
Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are extremely reliable provided they are deployed correctly. Since 5G works on licensed spectrum, it is less subject to interference. Wi-Fi 6 also exhibits high levels of reliability and performance, even in large crowded areas. Customers can opt between a licensed spectrum, unlicensed spectrum or choose to segment a specific private network depending on their use case and requirements.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 are notably secure than their predecessors.
4G LTE was vulnerable to a range of attacks, including data interception and device tracking. 5G improves upon LTE security by employing multiple authentication methods and better key management.
Wi-Fi earlier was not optimal with basic password protection. They needed proper access controls and highly secure passwords. Wi-Fi 6 follows new standards, WPA3 and Enhanced Open which makes network security stronger.
Hence, it is only a misconception that cellular technologies are more secure than Wi-Fi.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 are both evolving technologies. They are bound to serve its customers better than their antecedents. Both of them will cater to the macro trend of the massive IoT. 5G will serve applications requiring mobility, macro range, and where physical network segmentation is needed. Wi-Fi 6 being reliable, secure and cost-effective will be the go-to wireless access technology for most enterprise applications. On the whole, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are bound to take the internet world a notch higher.