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.