With 5G coming, will you even still need Wi-Fi?

It’s a good question, right? 5G cellular service from AT&T and others will bring data speeds of 1Gbps to your phone and other connected devices. That’s probably faster than the wired connections in your home, and it’s definitely faster than your Wi-Fi. So why even bother with Wi-Fi at all?

It’s more of a 2020-ish question

As much as I love all the 5G hype, the truth is that we’re probably looking at 2020 or beyond before we start seeing large-scale deployments of 5G cellular throughout the country. There are going to be a lot of cell towers built to accommodate 5G and that will take time. Remember that city and town planning boards generally have to approve those things. Cities and towns are not often known for moving quickly.

Eventually, you’ll start seeing the option for 5G “fixed wireless” in your home, and you’ll have to decide whether or not to keep your existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. My guess is, you’ll want to do that at least for a little while.

New hardware to buy

Every device that you want to use that fancy new 5G internet will need new hardware if it makes that connection directly. I’m talking about new cellular chips for your phone, tablet, streaming box, PC, that sort of thing. If you’re thinking of eliminating Wi-Fi then every device will need its own connection to the 5G network. That will probably happen eventually, but not right away.

For the short term, you will probably want to keep connecting over Wi-Fi because your home router will (literally) be the gateway to that 5G network. It will be the way that the electronics you buy today will connect to it. That’s not a bad thing, and it means you’ll probably be holding on to Wi-Fi for several more years.

Security concerns

Sometimes you want the information at home to stay at home. Do you want hackers to have a direct connection to your PC? Probably not. Right now your router serves a very important purpose. It keeps the information on your home network separate from the internet in general. It does this through a firewall, which closes off your computers from the outside world unless the computers deliberately connect. That’s a very good thing.

While you probably keep your computers, phones, tablets, and streaming boxes connected to the internet now, those connections are really tightly controlled. You’re getting a lot of information from the internet, but hopefully you’re not giving a lot of information. The pictures stored on your devices aren’t there for anyone to pick through. The bank records you need aren’t right there out in the open.

You’re going to need to continue keeping that information private in the future and that’s one big reason to keep connecting to Wi-Fi.

Will Wi-Fi keep up?

Actually, today’s Wi-Fi systems are already faster than that 1Gbps that’s being promised by 5G. The theoretical max speed of today’s 802.11ac routers is a staggering 7Gbps, or enough to transfer an entire DVD movie in about 7 seconds. Chances are you don’t need that level of bandwidth in your home, but it’s already possible with the right equipment. You don’t need to worry about Wi-Fi lagging behind. You probably just need to upgrade your router.

Bottom line…

Wi-Fi isn’t going away anytime soon. There are too many benefits to it, and it’s a system that works well with 5G, instead of replacing it. You may need some new Wi-Fi equipment to get the best speeds from today’s gear, but isn’t that always the case?

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