5G, WiFi 6 and the Future of Wireless Connectivity

The rapid progress in digitalization has been driven by advancements in connectivity. From the 1G of the 1980s to the 4G of the last decade, wireless connectivity has helped transform the global economy. Today’s 5G and WiFi 6 technologies offer promising features essential to furthering business efficiency and enhancing people’s digital experiences.

With wireless technologies continuing to evolve, it would be helpful to identify what makes 5G and WiFi 6 different from their previous iterations. And how will businesses benefit from the improved connectivity?

5G and its underlying technologies

Let’s start with the 5th generation mobile network. 5G offers advanced features that its previous generations didn’t have, with ultra-quick connectivity thanks to lower latency. What you get with 5G is high performance, efficiency, and reliability. It solves the connectivity requirements of massive arrays of IoT devices, objects, and machines.

Born in the cloud era, 5G’s main spectrum is in the C-band, which offers up to 100 MHz wide channels. The band of radio frequency spectrum ranges from 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz. Think of 5G as a radio access network (RAN). It’s a cellular technology deployed in macro-cell and small-cell base stations.

5G’s underlying technologies include orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) and the 5G new radio (NR) air interface. OFDM is a method of digital signal modulation across multiple channels to reduce interference. 5G also uses wide bandwidth technologies like Sub-6 GHz and mmWave, a very fast – but very short range – technology.

Expanded spectrum usage

Before there was 5G, there was 1G’s analog voice in the 1980s, 2G’s digital voice in the 1990s, 3G’s mobile data in the 2000s, and 4G’s mobile broadband in the 2010s. These generations of wireless connectivity ushered in a new digital revolution. Although 5G operates much like 4G, it delivers more flexibility and scalability as it expands the utilization of spectrum resources up to 300 GHz in the case of mmWave. Low latency enables 5G to support multiple gigabytes per second (Gbps) throughput, either through Sub-6 GHz or 24 GHz and up. 

5G use cases

Faster connectivity for mobile devices enhances the user experience needed for various purposes, including content creation and content consumption, e.g. faster video traffic for media and entertainment. As 5G potentially offers up to 20 Gbps of speed, it improves mobile applications for a range of industries, from video streaming to social media to banking to food delivery to e-commerce and retail.

5G will be invaluable for mission-critical communications, such as remote healthcare, security, autonomous vehicles, or monitoring of critical infrastructures in smart cities. And it connects IoT devices, sensors, and equipment for manufacturing, vehicle security, aviation, military, and healthcare.

With its high performance, reliability, and efficiency, 5G has wide-ranging applications. It connects IoT devices, and what’s more, enterprises can build and deploy private 5G wireless networks. Thus, 5G is increasingly becoming a key driver of global economic growth as it creates a long-term impact on manufacturers, operators, content creators, app developers, and consumers. It will drive everything from edge and cloud computing to smart cars and AI.

Further reading: The Future of Business 5G and Its Impact on Enterprises

WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened up a new band of spectrum called WiFi 6E. Although WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E are the same technology, they’re different in terms of spectrum. WiFi 6E is WiFi located in the spectrum of the 6 GHz band, which helps in extending the capabilities and efficiency of WiFi 6.

WiFi 6E offers low latency and faster data rates and provides up to 7 channels with 160 megahertz (MHz) essential for high-bandwidth applications. It solves the data transmission problem of applications requiring multiple gigabytes of speed.

Locating it in the 6 GHz spectrum, WiFi 6E processes more data than in the limited spectrum of WiFi 6, which is in the 5GHz range. WiFi 6E supports technologies with higher round-trip latency requirements, such as IoT, unified communications, cloud computing, telepresence, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR).

With the U.S. and Canada allowing the outdoor operations of WiFi using the 6 GHz band, it will be a boost to industries, creating new use cases from transportation and manufacturing to agriculture and healthcare. But like the 5 GHz band, the 6 GHz band has similar power limits.

Technologies of the future

5G and WiFi 6 are two different technologies that complement each other. They have these features in common: low latency, fast data rates, higher capacity, and high performance. Each technology answers specific business needs or conditions. 5G operates on a cellular front. Companies with large outdoor operations might consider 5G for their network needs. Organizations with indoor operations or determined access points can take advantage of the features of WiFi 6E for their 6 GHz-enabled devices and equipment.

WiFi 6 delivers four times higher capacity and 75 percent lower latency, improving the speed of previous WiFi iterations by more than double. Wireless devices operating in the 6 GHz band work well with WiFi 6E, which delivers multiple-Gbps data rates.

Like WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, 5G’s unified platform stands out as the difference-maker as it delivers faster mobile broadband, better connectivity, more capacity, and efficient usage of spectrum. They are cost-efficient technologies and could also be a key component to the success of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) with their lower latency and uniform data rates.

Businesses will benefit from what 5G and WiFi 6 have to offer to a range of industries and a broader array of applications, from media, transportation and healthcare to agriculture, manufacturing, and logistics. 5G and WiFi 6 offer the best connectivity there is for both industrial use and consumers.