The advancements in wireless connectivity contribute significantly to the rapid progress in digitalization. From the 1G of the 1980s to the 5G of the recent decade, connectivity has drastically transformed the global economy. Today’s 5G and Wi-Fi 6E technologies offer promising features like greater channel width, increased AP capacity, faster speed, more efficient bandwidth sharing, etc.
But let’s clarify: Wi-Fi 6E and 5G are very different. Read our Wi-Fi 6E vs. 5G review to know how these two compare. With this information, you can choose the best version for your purchase.
What Is 5G?
5G is fifth generation mobile network that enables the connection of virtually every person, object, machine, and device. 5G provides a connection with ten times less latency, 50 times more speed, and a 1000 times bigger capacity than 4G.
This means that it can deliver more data than before, improve connectivity and user experience, and link more devices. It will, however, only work on 5G-capable devices.
What Is Wi-Fi 6E?
Wi-Fi 6E is a developed technology extension for Wi-Fi 6 that enables the operations of a 6GHZ band in addition to the existing 2GHZ and 5GHZ. It adds 1200MHZ to the spectrum, thus allowing 14 additional 80MHZ channels and seven more 160Mhz channels.
Consequently, the network design is more straightforward and delivers a better Wi-Fi experience. It can also provide faster speeds at lower latencies.
Wi-Fi 6E vs 5G: Side-by-Side Comparison
|3GPP Rel. 15 and above
|Lower than 5G
|Cost of deployment
|Required as Wi-Fi networks are managed and installed by them
|Sub 1 GHz, 1 to 6 GHz, Greater than 6 GHz in millimeter wave range at 29 GHz and 43 GHz
|2.4 GHz and 5 GHz both
|Greater than 1 Gbps
|About 9.6 Gbps with 160 MHz/8SS
|Supports multiple authentications and key management features
|Supports WPA3 security protocols for enhanced security
Wi-Fi 6E vs 5G: What’s the Difference?
Wireless local area network provides internet access for many users in offices, homes, public places, and factories. 5G, on the other hand, is cellular and can thrive in closed and outdoor spaces.
Both technologies have different underlying functionalities but work towards delivering faster and more reliable internet connectivity. Their differences are explained below.
IEEE(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) provided the 802.11 bases for naming first-generation Internet technologies. Wi-Fi Alliances created different criteria to adopt more specific names based on their marketing strategies. For example, IEEE 802.11ac refers to 5G, while the newer Wi-Fi 6 gets the name 802.11ax.
Internet connections that allow multiple users to connect from one access point are vulnerable to security threats. Hackers might attack an unsecured access point with malware which then infects a device that connects to it.
That’s why network security is vital in wireless technology. It helps prevents hackers from accessing your sensitive information and valuable data. When cybercriminals get hold of such information, they might cause harm through identity theft, blackmail, and leaking sensitive information.
5G ensures security on the connections through WPA and WPA2 protocols. Unlike obsolete WEP protocols, these are vital security improvements.
However, they have several weak spots and vulnerabilities. One such vulnerability are dictionary attacks that hackers use to predict your encrypted passwords using multiple combinations and attempts.
Wi-Fi 6E, on the other hand, has improved the feature by incorporating the latest security protocols, WPA3. So, Wi-Fi 6E-enabled devices can use WPA, WPA2, and WPA3 features.
In addition, Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 enhances multi-factor encryption and authentication processes. It has scannable OR codes to connect to a device directly and the OWE technology that prevents auto encryption.
Battery Life and Power Consumption
Battery life is a critical feature you should consider before purchasing a new device. Some devices are designed for one-time use and are not rechargeable. Remember that Wi-Fi connectivity can strain battery reserves. Therefore, you need a Wi-Fi standard that reduces power consumption.
Wi-Fi 6E comes with a Target Wake Time (TWT) feature that helps turn off the devices connected to the Wi-Fi when not in use. TWT can help reduce the amount of power drained when the device operates unproductively.
Sadly, this feature might not be viable for active smartphone users. Still, it’s ideal for (IoT) setups that are not heavy on their internet usage. 5G, on the other hand, consumes more power than Wi-Fi 6 because it doesn’t have the TWT feature to regulate power usage on devices connected to it.
Multi-User, Input, and Outputs
Multi-user, multiple-input, multiple outputs (MU MIMO) is a wireless technology that allows several users to communicate with a router at the same time. There’s a considerable difference in MU MIMO capacity between 5G and Wi-Fi 6E.
5G uses a downlink, unidirectional 4×4 MU-MIMO. It means various users to a specific limit can access the access point for a stable Wi-Fi connection. However, once this limit of 4×4 MU-MIMO is exceeded, the Wi-Fi becomes congested and starts to show signs like packet loss, increased frequency, etc.
While Wi-Fi 6 E uses 8×8 MU MIMO technology, this can accommodate eight devices and actively use wireless LAN without interference. In addition, the Wi-Fi 6E MU MIM upgrade is bidirectional, meaning your device can connect to the access point on multiple bands.
Data Transfer Speed
Speed is one exciting and significant feature that tech users look for in these devices. Faster rates mean better streaming, better voice and video conferencing, shorter download times, faster browsing, etc.
5G allows fast data transfer, especially if the network coverage is good. The speeds often range between 1Gbps and 10Gbps with a latency of 1millissecofn, which is pretty low. 5G upload and download speeds are highest when using a Sub-6 low-band spectrum that can penetrate buildings and travel longer distances.
This condition shows that 5G speeds depend heavily on the carrier and the spectrum. The speeds also reduce depending on the number of people sharing the bandwidth. These traits make the 5G network unreliable in delivering high-speed internet consistently.
In contrast, Wi-Fi 6E tramples 5G regarding network speeds, mainly when dealing with congested networks. It uses 1025 QAM modulation that theoretically delivers up to 9.6 Gbps.
5G speeds are dependent on many factors that work to their disadvantage. Therefore, it cannot deliver a high upload and download speed, as in the case of Wi-Fi 6E. The actual speed benefit comes when more devices connect to the Wi-Fi 6E router. Unlike with 5G, the drop in speeds in Wi-Fi 6E when you connect more devices is hardly noticeable.
Beamforming transmission has the sender and receiver sending signals directly to each other instead of the sender spreading the signal out in different directions. Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6E use these methods to transmit signals.
5G benefits from beamforming because it eliminates the challenge of interference of the signal, especially when there are buildings and objects on the path. Beamforming existed in other network generations before 5G.
Wi-Fi 6E uses eight antennas to form a beam of signal. Wi-Fi routers better equipped with beamforming technology have a better data rate and signal transmission range.
The frequency band in Wi-Fi 6E differs from that of 5G. The latter uses the 5GHz band, which provides less interference. Its signals have decreased ability to penetrate walls.
Wi-Fi 6 offers two bands frequencies, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz. It means the devices can scan for and utilize the band with better suitability and less interference.
With that, you can get the best of both networks and a more comprehensive range of peripherals that are not in the same location. Wi-Fi 6E uses a third band: 6GHz.
Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) Technology
OFDMA is a technology that controls the number of devices and users accessing a specific subcarrier at a given time. 5G uses OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing) technology to control network access.
The available frequency channels range from 20 to 160MHz, with subcarriers between 64 and 512. With these limited ranges and subcarriers, users must queue and wait for an empty subcarrier if all subcarriers are occupied.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi 6E uses OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access). The technology allows for the multiplexing of the available frequencies and subcarriers, making them unlimited. Users get a service priority regardless of how many people use the carrier.
OFDMA technologies reduce time delays and congestion when several users are connected. In layman’s terms, OFDMA reduces latency, increases speed and efficiency, and leads to lesser delays on the network and is thus very good for lower bandwidth operations.
Disadvantages of 5G and Wi-Fi 6E
As the global telecom industry gears up for Wi-Fi 6E technology, experts say that despite having several drawbacks, 5G and Wi-Fi 6E have dark aspects that require a detailed discussion amongst governments and industry leaders globally.
For example, today, laptops, routers, and smartphones are expensive when equipped with Wi-Fi 6E technology. One needs to have a Gigabit-class broadband connection to use Wi-Fi technology fully.
Unlike 5G, Wi-Fi 6E has a limited network range. Its signals can be easily interrupted if there is an obstruction between the device and the router.
Moreover, 5G can’t fully penetrate solid objects like walls. This property limits access points in homes and offices, where many walls might come between the user and a wireless antenna.
Another drawback of 5G technology is that it can weaken cellular devices by draining the battery reserves and reducing their lifespan. Few manufacturers have introduced 5G mobile phones, laptops, or routers.
Wi-Fi 6E vs 5G: 4 Must-Know Facts
- 5G technology offers dynamic beamforming features.
- 5G technology provides higher bandwidth and data rate through massive MIMO and carrier aggregation.
- Wi-Fi 6E provides 4x improvement in network efficiency.
- Wi-Fi 6E uses short symbol duration indoors and long symbol duration outdoors.
Wi-Fi 6E vs 5G: Which One Should You Use?
It is challenging to establish which option is better between the 5G and Wi-Fi 6E. The two wireless connections provide a wide range, negligible latency, and excellent speeds. They’re both perfect on paper.
Therefore, it would be best if they complemented each other. Nonetheless, Wi-Fi 6E is viable for indoor spaces, while 5G is ideal on the road. We recommend using them interchangeably based on your location.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Raimunda-losantos/Shutterstock.com.