5G Wi-Fi: What is it Exactly?

The following guide will take a look at 5G Wi-Fi. Technical terms can be confusing. As such, we often shorten them so they’re easier to handle in everyday speech. 

However, similar to a shortage of IP addresses (hence the existence of CGNAT), we seem to be running out of abbreviations.  

As more similarly named technologies come out, there will be some overlap in how they are named. 

5G Wi-Fi is a good example of this. It can refer to two separate but related technologies. The following guide will attempt to detangle and assert the actual meaning.

The Confusion Around 5G

Over the last few years, many misconceptions and misinformation have spread about 5G, from conspiracy theories and beyond. 

When people speak about 5G, they typically refer to 4G’s successor. However, they also may be referring to 5Ghz Wi-Fi, which is completely different. 

What is 5G Wi-Fi? 

5G Wi-Fi is a shortening of 5GHz Wi-Fi. Some tech professionals consider it a misnomer as people can easily confuse it with 5G cellular networks. 

Nevertheless, 5Ghz refers to one of many frequency bands the International Telecommunication Union has allocated and reserved for wireless LAN (WLAN).  

You can set most routers to either use 2.4 Ghz or the 5Ghz frequency band. However, most high-end routers also support the 6Ghz (Wi-Fi 6) frequency band. But how does 5Ghz differ from the other bands?

Modern wireless router with 5GHz and 802.11ac high-speed standards

Modern wireless router with 5GHz and 802.11ac high-speed standards

Why 5 GHz Wi-Fi exists

5 Ghz can support a higher data than 2.4 GHz rate, with 9.6 GB being the theoretical top speed. This is also on par with the 6 GHz frequency band’s (theoretical) top speed. 

Nevertheless, 5 Ghz is also less susceptible to interference because there is less traffic. Historically, a smaller number of devices use the 5 GHz frequency band. 

So what’s the point of introducing 6 Ghz if 5 GHhz is supposedly so great? 5 Ghz has a problem maneuvering past or penetrating solid objects. Moreover, unless you’re using the 802.11 ac specification, 5 Ghz covers a smaller connection area. 

6 GHz and Beyond

Hand turns dice and changes the expression "WiFi 6" to "WiFi 6e" 

Hand turns the dice and changes the expression “WiFi 6” to “WiFi 6e.” 

Unfortunately, the introduction of 6 GHz hasn’t fixed this flaw. 6 GHz covers the least amount of area than the other bands. However, there is less interference, and it can deliver a data rate of 2GB per second more reliably than 5 GHz. 

For now, only a few high-end devices support 6 GHz. Thus, 5 GHz isn’t going away anytime soon.  

But what’s the difference between 5Ghz and 5G?     

What is 5G Cellular?

5G refers to the fifth generation of cellular communications technology. It’s the predecessor to 3G and 4G/LTE. Similarly to 5 Ghz, a conglomerate of cellular companies joined to create a high-speed broadband solution.

5G uses the same frequency ranges as 3G and 4G, as well as a new standalone frequency band range (NR1) that is unique to it. T-Mobile was the first to introduce a product and capitalize on this new frequency band range. 

NR1 introduced two new frequency band spectrums: 

  • 410 MHz to 7125 MHz (New Low-Band Frequencies)
  • 24.25 GHz to 71.0 GHz (New High-band Frequencies) 

This was in addition to the bands 5G shared with its predecessors:

  • 600 MHz to 900 MHz (Low-Band)
  • 2.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz  (High-Band)
5G Wireless Technology Illustration

5G Wireless Technology Illustration

How 5G Wi-Fi and 5 Cellular overlap

The most obvious way both technologies overlap is by transferring data through radio waves. They ultimately use different bands to carry this data. Moreover, they cover different-sized areas.

Where 5G(Hz) Wi-Fi connects devices and users to a local area network (LAN), 5G cellular connects them to a wide area network (WAN). Modern smartphones use both technologies.

Android and Apple mobile devices can connect to 5G(Hz) Wi-Fi depending on the brand, range, and version. Moreover, most mid-to-high-end smartphone devices allow you to create mobile hotspots. 

This feature lets you share your cellular internet connection (5G). In most cases, you can set the band your mobile hotspot uses to 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.      

Your phone can also connect to a 5G network – if it supports it. If not, it can connect to a 4G or 3G network.

Of course, smartphones aren’t the only ones that utilize this technology – just the most popular. 5G modems and routers also exist. They use a 5G carrier sim and allow external devices to connect using WI-Fi. This Wi-Fi can utilize a 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz or 6 GHz band. These 5G routers can also come in a portable pocket Wi-Fi form factor:

Man holding 5G Pocket Wi-Fi router

Man holding 5G Pocket Wi-Fi router

5G Wi-Fi: Final Words

The above guide explores what 5G Wi-Fi is. It explores the differences between 5G Wi-Fi and 5G Cellular. 

Ultimately, both technologies use radio waves that we’ve tuned to different frequencies. 

Furthermore, we use these technologies to deliver and exchange data. 

However, where these technologies differ is in the context we use them. For instance, we use 5G(Hz) Wi-Fi to transfer data locally. 

On the other hand, similar to Starlink, 5G cellular is used to transfer data in a Wide Area Network (WAN). Regardless, we can employ both technologies in unison.