What are 5G and Wi-Fi (WiFi 6)?

5G is the current mobile communications standard. When it was introduced in 2019, it was considered groundbreaking simply because of its high transmission speed. It’s been of particular benefit for the Internet of Things (IoT) and has opened up new possibilities for companies.

But 5G is not the only option when it comes to the "factory of the future". Since 2019, devices have also been developed for Wi-Fi 6, which uses the new 802.11ax standard for wireless Wi-Fi networks. The introduction of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 has reduced the performance differences between mobile and Wi-Fi networks. The speeds of both technologies are sufficient to make transferring and accessing large files easier and to speed up data-intensive processes. But how should companies decide which to use? Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 have certain characteristics that can turn out to be the decisive factor. Firstly, let's take a look at overall functionality.
In the industrial sector, 5G is usually introduced via “campus networks”, also known as campus area networks (CANs). These are dedicated mobile networks that operate in isolation within a certain area, such as a factory or an office building. This means these networks are separate from the public 5G infrastructure and can only be accessed by their internal users. This gives organisations greater control over the performance, security and configuration of their network.

Wi-Fi 6 is a widely used wireless networking technology that allows devices to connect to the Internet or local area networks (LAN) using shared radio waves (Wi-Fi). Enterprise Wi-Fi networks are usually provided through access points which transmit and receive data from connected components. Businesses frequently use Wi-Fi to provide internet access to employees, guests and various IoT devices.

5G and Wi-Fi 6: the main differences

The main differences between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks can be seen by comparing the most important criteria:

Performance and capacity

5G campus networks offer several advantages over Wi-Fi, including lower latency, higher data rates and improved quality and service. As a result, this technology is well-suited for mission-critical applications which demand real-time, high-bandwidth data processing. Wi-Fi 6 is capable of providing high-speed internet access. However, you may encounter problems in using a large number of devices and maintaining consistent performance over wide coverage areas.

Range and coverage

5G networks allow for better coverage of larger areas compared to Wi-Fi, as their signals can travel greater distances and penetrate barriers more effectively. This makes 5G a suitable option for businesses with geographically widespread facilities or technically demanding environments.
WiFi-6 networks, on the other hand, generally have a shorter range and may require a variety of access points or mesh systems to cover large or dense areas. This can increase complexity, risk of interference and cost.


Campus 5G and Wi-Fi 6 both offer robust security features, but 5G has an advantage due to its mobile architecture, SIM-based authentication and inherent security protocols. Private 5G networks use strong encryption, device authentication and network slicing capabilities to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorised access. Modern Wi-Fi 6 networks use advanced security measures such as WPA3 encryption and 802.1X authentication. However, due to their wide distribution and reliance on common frequencies, they are potentially more vulnerable to attacks.

Deployment and costs

Using a 5G-based campus network typically requires dedicated infrastructure, spectrum coordination and specialized platforms, which often result in higher pre-operating costs compared to Wi-Fi 6. However, the long-term benefits of 5G, such as improved performance, scalability and security, can mean these initial investments are cost-effective in the long run. Wi-Fi 6 networks are generally easier and less expensive to introduce because they rely on an unlicensed spectrum and commonly available hardware. This makes Wi-Fi a more accessible option for small businesses or organisations on a tight budget.

5G or Wi-Fi 6: which should you choose?

Choosing the best wireless solution depends on your company's specific business needs, budget and long-term goals. Campus networks are well-suited for organisations with mission-critical applications, large coverage areas, dynamically evolving needs or demanding performance requirements, while Wi-Fi 6 networks are a more accessible and cost-effective solution.

But it’s worth noting that you can often get the best of both worlds by using these two wireless standards in parallel. Particularly complex tasks can be carried out via 5G, others via more cost-effective Wi-Fi. For example, a hospital could use Wi-Fi 6 for clinical applications and staff laptops, while providing IoT connectivity to medical devices via a 5G network.