While both private 5G and Wi-Fi can work together and make network services such as internet access available wirelessly, they have some key differences.
It's important to note that 5G isn't intended to replace Wi-Fi. Each technology has unique advantages depending on settings and use cases.
Wi-Fi is a familiar standard, and one that millions of endpoints in organizations worldwide can use daily. Wi-Fi infrastructure is relatively inexpensive to install and manage. However, Wi-Fi has limitations in its usefulness as a standalone solution for connectivity:
Security : Threats such as malware may only need to steal or spoof credentials to gain access to networks. Private 5G communications are encrypted, and an appropriate SIM card must be present in the endpoint device to enable access.
Coverage : Wi-Fi deployments can be complex and cost-prohibitive in large usage areas such as airports or event venues, given the high number of endpoints needed. In remote areas where comprehensive Wi-Fi infrastructure does not exist, 5G and 4G can offer greater coverage without wiring.
Both Wi-Fi and 5G operate on shared spectrums. Wi-Fi can experience performance challenges in terms of how it shares bandwidth across connected devices; in addition, Wi-Fi is more prone to interference and usage-based fluctuations. The number of access point handoffs can cause lags and dropouts.
In theory, Wi-Fi is capable of 5G's performance. In reality, Wi-Fi isn't able to offer the same reliability and performance guarantees that 5G can provide, such as low latency, faster speed, and greater bandwidth.
The best way to compare private 5G and Wi-Fi is to see how they will both have a role to play in supporting enterprises and organizations in the future. Most of today's computing devices work very well on Wi-Fi connections, although the same devices—if equipped for 5G—can often operate many times faster via 5G connection.