With the growth of mobile broadband and mobile hotspots in recent years, people have found themselves in situations where cellular technology and WiFi can be used side by side to complement each other. However, some of the terminologies within these two very different technologies sound similar and can lead to confusion. One such confusion is between the 5G technology in mobile communications and the 5GHz frequency band that WiFi networks use. This post aims to outline the main difference between these two terminologies.
5G mobile networks are the latest generation of cellular networks whereas 5 GHz is an unlicensed frequency band used by WiFi. 5G mobile networks allow cellular devices to enable mobile internet using a SIM card; a 5 GHz frequency band is used in WiFi routers to connect user devices to the internet.
5G is the leading cellular technology
Mobile networks have been around for nearly four decades, and since then, each decade has introduced a new generation of mobile networks. 5G is the latest generation of mobile networks where 5 stands for ‘fifth’ and G stands for ‘Generation’. 5G or fifth-generation of mobile networks is enabled by the technology New Radio or NR. Before the arrival of 5G, we have seen 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G cellular technologies. Arguably, the most well-known of these technologies is 4G powered by the LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology. The use cases for 5G are split among three categories, including eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband), mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication) and uRLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication). 5G networks are already live in many countries, and they can offer high-speed broadband services as part of eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband). eMBB is the most common use case at the moment, and in the UK, 5G can already deliver average indoor download speeds of around 150 Mbps to 200 Mbps.
5GHz is a frequency band for WiFi
When we use our WiFi compatible devices to connect to the internet, we establish a connection between our device (e.g. a laptop) and the WiFi router. The router then connects us to the internet through the ISP’s network. (ISP = Internet Service Provider, e.g. Virgin Media). The connection between the WiFi router and a user device is established wirelessly through radio waves operating at certain frequencies. Today, most WiFi routers are dual-band and support two frequency bands, i.e. 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. 5 GHz is one of the frequency bands WiFi routers employ to connect our devices to the internet. The regulations are different in each country, but as an example, WiFi can access 580 MHz of unlicensed frequency spectrum within the 5 GHz band in the UK. The 5GHz band for WiFi starts at 5.15 GHz or 5150 MHz. The new generation of mobile networks, 5G, is completely different from this 5 GHz frequency band. Since 5G can offer average download speeds of up to 150-200 Mbps, it is potentially an alternative to fixed home broadband. However, the broadband router may use a dual-band WiFi connection (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) to connect with the devices. That means the router uses the 5G cellular technology (instead of the fibre line) to connect to the ISP and then uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands to connect to the user devices (e.g. a laptop).
5G stands for the fifth generation of mobile networks, and it is a cellular technology that follows 4G LTE networks. It can enable average download speeds of around 150-200 Mbps in the UK. 5 GHz is a frequency band used by WiFi routers alongside the 2.4 GHz band to create WiFi (wireless) coverage so that any WiFi-enabled devices can connect to the internet via the router.