Factors for Energy Providers to Consider When Selecting 5G vs Wi-Fi 6

Factors for energy providers to consider when selecting
5G vs. Wi-Fi 6.

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Natacha Baroni, Head of Energy Product Marketing at T-Mobile for Business

When we’re connecting to a network, most of us use Wi-Fi at our home or office, and mobile networks when we move out of the router’s range. But with 5G and Wi-Fi 6  both improving performance, you may see them as competitors. In truth, the technologies can actually be complementary – though each works best in certain scenarios.

When it comes to the energy industry, 5G offers advantages in terms of signal strength, coverage, reliability, security, and cost. So for electrical utilities, oil & gas companies, and mining companies that require strict performance levels across widespread areas with 24/7 uptime, 5G is the ideal choice.

Let’s take a closer look at Wi-Fi 6 vs. 5G and the factors critical to energy industry applications.

5G defined

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of the wide-area cellular network technology. Carriers pay to use 5G’s three licensed spectrum bands —low, mid, and high. To roll out coverage, operators build a network of cell towers and connected base stations that can send strong signals all at once to users who subscribe to the service.

In addition to having America’s fastest 5G network, T-Mobile has the largest 5G network covering 326 million people across 2 million square miles.

Wi-Fi 6 defined

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi is a local area network (LAN) that mostly handles home and office needs. Wi-Fi 6 is the most recent iteration of the Wi-Fi network protocol. It uses unlicensed spectrum that’s free but has a relatively weak signal. An Internet Service Provider delivers Wi-Fi through a hard-wired connection to a modem, which transmits the signal to a router. After converting the signal to wireless, the router sends it to access points that broadcast to user devices.

Factors to consider

Deciding between 5G vs. Wi-Fi 6.

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.

Our role

T-Mobile can help.

T-Mobile has deployed the 600 MHz spectrum nationwide and can meet energy industry IoT connectivity needs now and going forward. For further information, contact T-Mobile for Business.

T-Mobile has America’s largest and fastest 5G network, imagined for tomorrow but ready to give you an edge today. At T-Mobile for Business, we’re focused on providing your business with connectivity solutions and the dedicated, exceptional service you need to help you stay ahead. T-Mobile experts will work with you from beginning to end to help you select a network solution and achieve your modernization goals. To learn more about how T-Mobile is fueling digital transformation for today’s energy companies, visit our energy industry page.

About the author:

Natacha Baroni.

Natacha Baroni is the Head of Energy Product Marketing at T-Mobile for Business, with over a decade of experience enabling customers in the energy industry improve efficiency, digital transformation, and safety. Specializing in marketing and product management, Natacha uses her experience to bring industry and customer perspectives into the development of business initiatives and go to market strategies to best meet industry needs.

Natacha holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and an MBA from Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis.

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