So, is 5G better? And what does Wi-Fi 6 mean for utilities in terms of speed, cost, reliability and beyond? Below are critical factors to consider when choosing between 5G and Wi-Fi 6.
The 5G signal—how many bars you have—depends on proximity to a base station and number of people using the network. Most signals can pass through buildings, offering both indoor and outdoor coverage. Wi-Fi performance, however, depends on the number of other users on the network at the same time and on the same channel. Wireless signals can transmit for short distances outdoors, but works best if you deploy boosters, extenders, or repeaters and the path is unobstructed.
5G mid-band and low-band frequencies provide the best coverage while high-band provides high capacity and low latency. For example, low band can provide an oil & gas company with a download rate of 30-75 Mbps over hundreds of square miles. Low- and mid-band 5G can connect parts of rural America where even fixed broadband speeds may not be adequate. As a LAN, Wi-Fi 6 typically covers only a small area.
Widely deployed 5G operates on licensed spectrum that can offer superior reliability. 5G can cover both wide area and local connectivity, supporting a variety of energy use cases. Wi-Fi 6 operates on unlicensed spectrum, so reliability and availability aren’t guaranteed.
5G upgraded previous security features, adding functions and identifiers that support seamless and secure reauthentication as a device moves between networks. Wi-Fi 6 introduced Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 to bolster authentication security and encryption. But while 5G’s various authentication types make it easy to connect, access to a Wi-Fi network normally requires the user to know a network name and password.
When comparing Wi-Fi 6 vs. 5G, cost is only one factor in the equation, and can depend on a number of factors related to deployment, maintenance, and scale. While Wi-Fi typically has a lower initial cost when it comes to hardware, for enterprises 5G hardware is typically more affordable over time because it requires less hardware to provide a larger coverage area when compared with Wi-Fi 6. And, with its longer range, 5G is ideal for mobile connections, utility deployments, and large-scale operations, and a better fit for emerging IoT use cases.
Ultimately, 5G offers utilities the higher bandwidth, lower latency, better security, and greater resilience that energy industry applications demand at a cost comparable to Wi-Fi 6. 5G from T-Mobile provides the largest 5G coverage of any carrier, especially in remote and rural areas. These advantages make 5G the best choice for enterprises that must meet mandatory performance levels with 24/7 uptime. And for energy companies with deployments over large environments, private 5G is a natural fit.