Is WiFi 6E faster than 5G?

WiFi 6E and 5G are the latest generation wireless networking technologies, promising faster speeds and lower latencies. But which one is actually faster? Let’s analyze and compare them.

Is WiFi 6E faster than 5G?

WiFi 6E is the newest WiFi standard based on 802.11ax specifications. It operates on the new 6 GHz band providing better performance than WiFi 5 (802.11ac) by enabling faster top transfer speeds, lower latency, and increased network efficiency.

5G is the next generation cellular network technology offered by mobile carriers. It uses a new radio interface and core network improvements to boost network capacity, reduce latency, and provide faster top transfer speeds compared to 4G LTE networks.

Key capabilities comparison

Feature WiFi 6E 5G
Spectrum band 5.925–7.125 GHz Low (<1 GHz), Mid (1-6 GHz), High (>24 GHz mmWave) bands
Peak theoretical speed >10 Gbps 10 Gbps (mmWave), <1 Gbps (sub-6 GHz)
Typical/expected speed 0.4 – 4 Gbps 100-900 Mbps
Latency <2 ms (LAN), <10 ms (WAN) 10 – 20 ms
Mobility Stationary/portable use Fully mobile use
Range Up to 25 meters indoors, 250 meters outdoors 1,000 meters (sub-6 GHz), 200 meters (mmWave)

As we can see from the table, both technologies have capabilities to support multi-gigabit speeds. However, the expected typical speeds and latency differ based on how they are deployed and what frequency spectrum they use. Next, we’ll analyze those factors in depth.

Speed and latency analysis

WiFi 6E Speed

WiFi 6E operates exclusively on the new 6 GHz band, which has a massive 1280 MHz of spectrum available. With enormous bandwidth and advanced modulation techniques like 3072-QAM, WiFi 6E can deliver exceptional speeds while serving many devices simultaneously.

Here are some typical expected WiFi 6E speeds based on how it’s configured:

  • Indoor consumer use: 0.4 – 1.5 Gbps
    • Factors impacting speed: signal interference, number of users, router capabilities
  • Enterprise/office use: 0.75 – 3 Gbps
    • Managed networks with low interference provide better speeds
  • Best case scenarios (ideal lab testing conditions): Over 4 Gbps

5G Speed

In contrast to WiFi, 5G uses a wide mix of frequency bands which significantly impacts performance:

  • 5G mmWave (24+ GHz spectrum): Can achieve Peak speeds over 1 Gbps. However, the coverage range is limited to around 200 meters only. Also needs direct line-of-sight conditions.
  • 5G sub-6 GHz: Maximum speeds of 100-900 Mbps, with more reliable coverage and indoor access similar to 4G LTE. But still higher latency than mmWave.

In practical real-world use by consumers, 5G speeds are typically expected to be:

  • Outdoor use in city centers: 200-500 Mbps
  • Indoor use: 50-150 Mbps

So we can see WiFi 6E provides significantly faster speeds compared to most 5G deployments today, even matching mmWave 5G maximum speeds by using much lower frequency spectrum.

However, future upgrades to 5G technology leveraging higher bandwidth mmWave spectrum in more places can boost speeds to rival WiFi 6E. But that will take years to happen.

Latency

5G has a theoretical latency of around 1-10 ms. However in real-world conditions, it typically ranges from 10 – 20 ms on average currently.

In comparison, WiFi 6E offers exceptionally low latency of <2 ms on local connections, and <10 ms latency to internet servers when using optimal network configurations.

So for applications like gaming or real-time video that require responsiveness, WiFi 6E delivers superior performance thanks to faster latency in most cases.

When is 5G faster than WiFi 6E?

Given the speed and latency comparisons above, 5G only exceeds WiFi 6E speeds in some niche situations currently:

  • Outdoor locations in city centers with 5G mmWave coverage providing over 1 Gbps peak speeds. But such sites are sparse, and mmWave can’t penetrate inside buildings well.
  • Special venues like sports stadiums where 5G cell access points are densely deployed to provide dedicated ultra-high-speed 5G coverage unmatched by WiFi.

However, in most typical consumer usage conditions indoors and even outdoor residential neighborhoods, WiFi 6E on modern routers provide faster access currently.

As 5G networks expand mmWave spectrum usage in the coming years, we could see 5G match or outpace WiFi 6E even indoors for more users. But that will likely take 3 or more years to happen based on most telecom 5G expansion roadmaps.

When is WiFi 6E faster than 5G?

WiFi 6E can significantly outperform 5G speeds in several common scenarios:

  1. Indoor usage at home and office

Today’s 5G deployments on lower frequency sub-6 GHz spectrum struggle to deliver signals effectively inside many buildings. In comparison, WiFi 6E has enough bandwidth and range on 6 GHz for great performance indoors.

  1. Congested locations with many connected users/devices

Public places like airports and stadiums often have weak cellular signals due to bandwidth congestion serving many users simultaneously via the same cells. In contrast, each WiFi access point can deliver full bandwidth to all connected devices within range.

  1. Locations without reliable 5G coverage

5G has range and obstruction issues, especially on higher mmWave frequencies. So many sites have poor or intermittent 5G access currently. Meanwhile WiFi 6E works great everywhere fast reliable WiFi can be installed.

So unless you are outdoors in one of the few city hotspots with high-band 5G, chances are your WiFi 6E network will outperform cellular 5G speeds today. And it saves money relying on home internet rather than cellular data.

Conclusion

In most situations faced by average consumers today, WiFi 6E provides faster speeds and lower latency compared to existing 5G deployments that utilize lower frequency spectrum. WiFi 6E has performance advantages particularly for indoor usage thanks to better range and bandwidth utilization on newly available 6 GHz channels.

That makes WiFi 6E the superior choice currently for tasks like HD video streaming, multiplayer gaming, large file downloads and other speed sensitive applications for many users.

As 5G expands mmWave high-frequency coverage targeting 1 Gbps speeds in coming years, its maximum speeds may match or outpace WiFi 6E in some locations. But still with limitations in range, obstruction penetration and network congestion relative to WiFi 6E access points mounted optimally.

So WiFi 6E is likely to deliver a better user experience with faster speeds today and into the near future even as 5G improves over time. Evaluating your usage, budgets and location specifics will determine which technology delivers maximum speed based on your individual connectivity needs.

Key Takeaways

  • WiFi 6E operating exclusively on the new 6GHz band can deliver speeds over 4Gbps and under 2ms latency.
  • 5G offers two speed tiers based on coverage spectrum: Over 1Gbps with mmWave high-band, or 100-900Mbps on sub-6GHz similar to 4G LTE.
  • For most consumer use indoors today, WiFi 6E provides faster typical speeds and lower latency than existing 5G deployments.
  • Outdoor locations with 5G mmWave can temporarily exceed WiFi 6E speeds, but such sites are limited.
  • As 5G expands mmWave coverage, its maximum speeds may match WiFi 6E in future. But still with limitations in penetration, range and congestion issues.
  • For a mix of indoor and outdoor usage, WiFi 6E is likely to outperform 5G speeds today and in the near future for most users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is WiFi 6E truly faster than 5G in real-world usage today?
A: Yes, in most typical usage scenarios WiFi 6E delivers clearly faster speeds and lower latency currently compared to existing 5G networks available to consumers on lower frequency spectrum.

Q: When will 5G be faster than WiFi 6E?
A: Widespread 5G speeds surpassing WiFi 6E may only happen in 3 or more years as telcos upgrade infrastructure to expand mmWave high-frequency coverage targeting over 1Gbps speeds in more locations.

Q: Should I get WiFi 6E router or just use 5G cellular?
A: For most home and office usage involving HD video, large downloads and low latency applications, WiFi 6E will provide superior performance over relying exclusively on 5G cellular data, while saving on data plan costs.

Q: Can WiFi 6E reach gigabit speeds?
A: Yes, with ideal conditions WiFi 6E is capable of peak speeds beyond 4 Gbps and even 10 Gbps by leveraging the new wide 6 GHz spectrum. Real-world consumer speeds range from 400Mbps to 1.5Gbps.

Q: Is 5G only faster outdoors?
A: Currently 5G mmWave high-frequency deployments offering gigabit peak speeds mostly work outdoors only. Sub-6GHz 5G has better indoor coverage but slower 100-900Mbps speeds. In comparison WiFi 6E works great both indoor and outdoor.

Q: Does WiFi 6E need line of sight like 5G mmWave?
A: No, WiFi 6E signals on mid-band 6GHz spectrum reliably penetrate walls, ceilings and other indoor obstructions much better than high-band 5G mmWave signals requiring clear line of sight.

Q: Which technology has lower latency, 5G or WiFi 6E?
A: WiFi 6E offers exceptionally low latency under 2ms for local connections, and even under 10ms to internet servers under optimal network conditions. In contrast present real-world 5G latency ranges from 10 – 20ms typically.

Q: Is WiFi 6E useful for online gaming?
A: Yes, multiplayer online gaming performance sees significant benefits from WiFi 6E networks capable of gigabit speeds with ultra low latency under 2 milliseconds for responsive competitive play.

Q: Can WiFi 6E handle many connected devices better than 5G?
A: Yes, latest WiFi innovations allow modern routers to handle dozens or more devices per access point while efficiently allocating full bandwidth to each device as needed. This provides reliable high-speed connectivity even in crowded environments.

Q: What frequency bands are used by WiFi 6E?
A: WiFi 6E exclusively utilizes the newly available 6GHz spectrum, free from interference from legacy devices. Over 1280MHz bandwidth available in this band allows WiFi 6E to deliver its blazing fast wireless connectivity.

Q: Does WiFi 6E work with existing devices?
A: WiFi 6E router will work with older WiFi 5 and WiFi 4 devices to provide backwards compatibility. However, to enjoy the full benefits of multi-gigabit 6E speeds, client devices also need to have 6E support.

Q: Are WiFi speeds slowing down my broadband connection?
A: No, your WiFi network maximum speeds are limited by the router capability. So upgrading to WiFi 6E router will allow you to enjoy full gigabit internet speeds if you have that level of broadband service.

Q: Is WiFi 6 better than 5G?
A: WiFi 6 offers faster typical speeds than current sub-6GHz 5G networks. But WiFi 6E is even better equipped to beat 5G performance thanks to additional spectrum capacity and technology enhancements purpose-built for 6 GHz band.

Q: Should I buy WiFi 6E device now or wait?
A: WiFi 6E routers and devices are still early in adoption. So it may be prudent to wait 6-12 months for the ecosystem to mature if you don’t need bleeding edge speeds immediately. But buying a 6E router now will future-proof your network.

Q: Can WiFi 6E reach longer range than 5G?
A: Yes, thanks to lower frequency spectrum, WiFi 6E signals can propagate hundreds of feet outdoors from a high position antenna. So a single well-placed access point provides ample coverage matching or exceeding sub-6GHz 5G cells.

Q: Will WiFi 7 be even faster than current 5G?
A: Next-gen WiFi 7 multi-link operation promises to push maximum wireless network speeds to 30 Gbps or more as early as 2024, significantly faster than currently deployed 5G. Real-world WiFi 7 speeds should readily exceed gigabit 5G in future.

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