The transmission rate has improved almost twenty-fold in the 20-year evolution from 2G, 3G, 4G, to 5G. Supplementing the indoor coverage technologies of cellular networks, WiFi is also responsible for transmitting a large amount of data. WiFi networks are now substantially enhanced in terms of bandwidth, network capacity, and coverage as the WiFi standards develop from 802.11a/11b/11g/11n/11ac to 802.11ax (WiFi 6). This technical progress enables yet more applications to be implemented.
The following describes the differences between WiFi 6 and 5G in terms of technologies and applications.
1. Technology Comparison Summary
Table 1 Comparison between WiFi 6 and 5G
Advantages: Mainstream enterprise wireless solution that outperforms 5G in terms of spectrum, terminal ecosystem, network cost, ease of deployment, flexibility, and management requirements.
Disadvantages: WiFi 6 does not perform well in large-scale outdoor coverage scenarios and cannot meet the ultra-low latency requirements (< 10 ms).
Advantages: Leading wireless technology that outperforms WiFi 6 in terms of MIMO, service latency, mobile roaming, and outdoor coverage.
Disadvantages: The cost of deploying 5G networks indoors is high, and there is the issue of weak terminal compatibility. Carriers must participate in 5G deployment, making it difficult to alter the network structure.
2. Application Scenario Comparison Summary
The main benefit of WiFi 6 for enterprises is that it helps them to quickly establish their own networks and structure these networks based on their service changes, meeting enterprises’ customization requirements. For example, enterprises establish their office networks and schools establish networks for students’ network access. In addition to traditional WiFi scenarios, WiFi 6 is also applicable to enterprise VR/AR/4K applications, AGVs for warehousing and logistics, and asset management for supermarkets and factories.
5G focuses on public networks and is deployed in scenarios or terminals with high roaming and latency requirements, for example, autonomous cars, drones, outdoor personal network access, and factories with ultra-low latency requirements (< 10 ms).
Figure 2 Application scenarios of WiFi 6
Therefore, combining 5G with WiFi 6 is still the best option for public and private networks in the near future, as these two technologies complement each other in many scenarios.
Figure 3 Deployment scenarios of WiFi 6 and 5G
WiFi 6 and 5G each have their respective most applicable scenarios where neither can replace the other. Therefore, selecting the most appropriate technology according to the scenario requirements helps enterprises to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and accelerate their digital transformation.