5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile network technology. Cellular networks rely on licensedspectrum bands auctioned off to the highest bidder. Carriers like AT&T and Verizon must pay to use these bands and have to build infrastructure of connected base stations to be able to send out signals on the licensed spectrums to thousands of people at once, all of whom pay subscription fees.
5G will have a theoretical download speed of between 1Gbps and 10Gbps, but in reality, you won’t get anywhere near that. There are many factors that affect speeds such as where you are, how many people are connecting, and the capabilities of your device. The overall goal of 5G is to achieve a minimum download speed of 50Mbps. That will be a major improvement
over current 4G LTE speeds.
Wi-Fi is an unlicensed spectrum free for everyone to use, but its reach, bandwidth, and lower top speed restricts it to mostly home, office, and limited public use. Wi-Fi typically operates using two frequencies: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. Note that 5Ghz Wi-Fi has nothing to do with 5G mobile cellular networks. Past Wi-Fi naming conventions have been very confusing, going from 802.11b to 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11n, and the current standard 802.11ac. With the introduction of Wi-Fi 6 as the name of the next evolution of Wi-Fi, this simpler naming convention will also be retrofitted, so 802.11ac will be Wi-Fi 5 and so on. Wi-Fi 6 promises to increase speeds at least four times greater than Wi-Fi 5 with better efficiency and higher bandwidth.
Using New Wireless Technologies
To make use of these new technologies, carriers and ISPs have to deliver hardware and infrastructure that support the new technologies and speeds, and we need to buy new hardware that also supports them. That means we will need to purchase new computers, routers, and smart devices. As usual, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 capable devices will be backward compatible with older wireless technologies. The first wave of support for 5G and Wi-Fi 6 has already begun to roll out, but it will take some time before everything is in place. There will be some cases where use of 5G will obviate the need to use Wi-Fi 6, but in most cases, just as is the case today with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi 5, you will find good use for both technologies.