Contact a rep

5G vs. Wi-Fi 6:
how do they
compare?

Author: Shane Schick

The future of internet connectivity may look like a debate over using 5G vs. Wi-Fi 6, but the reality is more promising than that.

With higher speeds, lower latency and other benefits, 5G has been garnering significant attention from businesses and the media alike. The rise of this kind of new-generation technology can sometimes sound the death knell for whatever came before. Not this time, though.

While 5G presents significant opportunities for organizations of every kind, the next evolution in Wi-Fi offers updates of its own that will also enhance connectivity. That's why it's important to understand the use cases for each and how, in many circumstances, they will complement, rather than conflict with, each other.

What is Wi-Fi 6?

5G has become an increasingly familiar term, but what is Wi-Fi 6? Certified by an industry standards organization and introduced in 2019, Wi-Fi 6 (otherwise known as 802.11ax) promises increased reliability and performance. This includes an improved version of Multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO), a technology that allows multiple devices to transmit and receive signals from a Wi-Fi access point.

Like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 offers stronger signal performance by taking advantage of a technology called beamforming, as well as better throughput and the potential to roam more easily from one hotspot to another.

Here's a walkthrough of the scenarios where you might use one or the other—and where they'll both come in handy.

At home or in the office

The higher density of connected devices, along with its improved speed and latency, mean Wi-Fi 6 might continue to be a primary way we access the internet for everyday personal and professional use.

If you're taking your laptop to a meeting in a boardroom or simply browsing on a tablet from the comfort of your couch, you may connect via a Wi-Fi 6 network for some time to come.

On the road or outdoors

As more urban areas evolve into smart cities, 5G will be a critical component based on its extraordinary leap forward in terms of upload and download speeds.

Connected cars that need to exchange data via sensors on traffic lights and the road, for instance, will benefit from 5G, capitalizing on its low latency and broadband backhaul capabilities.

At the game or conference

Looking forward to being able to return to a sports arena someday? The experience will be even better than before, thanks to the ability of Wi-Fi 6 to let access points serve a large number of users.  5G will then take this capability to the next level with high resolution media streaming as well as advanced player analytics and interactive fan-based experiences.

The same will be true for indoor enterprise scenarios, such as a business event that's held in a convention center or hotel venue. This is where you might see more adoption of 5G vs. Wi-Fi 6, at least for now.

In a store location or branch office

Companies need to ensure strong security and consistent performance to offer the best customer experiences. 5G will deliver on that with a unified authentication framework, as well as the ability to offload traffic to avoid data congestion.

For companies that want to connect their headquarters to team members across multiple retail locations or branch offices, for example, 5G will become a mainstay.

Where 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will coexist

Digital transformation may look different from one industry to the next, but it's safe to say some of the biggest innovations will come from the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile edge computing (MEC).

As everyday objects become internet-enabled, people will constantly be on the move and using mobile applications. A person might use Wi-Fi 6 as they start work at their desk in the morning, for instance, and use 5G when they move outdoors for field service work.

Industry standards organizations such as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) are working to expand 5G access to fixed and non-terrestrial environments, which could pave the way for application convergence. In the meantime, businesses should talk to partners they can trust to understand their needs today—and make use of both 5G and Wi-Fi 6.

Learn more about how Verizon can help you get 5G-ready now.