With 5G, is Wi-Fi obsolete?

Is home Wi-Fi a thing of the past? If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last 15 years or so refining the networking in your home. As for me, I started with a simple Linksys router and added more and more capability over time. I’ve used wireless access points to fill gaps in my coverage and eventually moved to a true mesh network system.

But, in tech, everything ends. Since I put in my first Wi-Fi router, I have disposed of VHS tapes, cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs. Is it time for Wi-Fi to join those once-popular technologies?

5G “could” kill Wi-Fi

5G is the name for the next cellular standard. It’s already started to roll out to cities across the country and you can even get a very decent 5G phone now. (Curious how? Call the experts at Signal Connect: 866-726-4182) Pretty soon, everyone will be able to get gigabit speeds with their phones. Does this mean there’s no need for Wi-Fi?

I first posed this question about two years ago. Let’s revisit.

5G will not kill Wi-Fi because not everything has 5G built in.

I suppose there are folks out there who use nothing but their cellular data. I’m talking about people who don’t have a TV, who watch their content on a computer or their phone. I’m guessing in this scenario they tether the computer to the phone.

This is one way to go through life but it’s not really the best way. The tethering is a bit of a drag, although I admit it’s not as much of a drag as paying for home internet just to avoid tethering. But with the exception of those very cutting-edge folks, most of us do have a lot of connected devices at home.

Maybe you’re a little bit old-school and you still have a printer on your home network. Maybe you stream using a smart TV or streaming box. Or, maybe you’re cutting-edge and you have smart outlets and connected appliances. No matter where you are in the tech spectrum, chances are there’s a need for Wi-Fi.

These other devices could get 5G modems at some point. The chips aren’t that expensive. But, they would need 5G service and that could potentially be a problem. Cellular service isn’t set up to let you use 25 smart devices on the same data plan. That may change at some point but it’s not changing today.

5G will not kill Wi-Fi because not every home has great indoor cell service.

I love talking about cellular signal boosters because they solve a very common problem. The way your home is built means it actively blocks cell signals. You may have decent service in some spots but pretty much everyone has a place in the home with bad cell service. Cell boosters solve that problem.

However, until every home has a cell booster, I don’t see 5G replacing Wi-Fi anytime soon. You may be able to get great speeds outside. You may be able to get great speeds sitting on the couch. But will your smart thermostat get enough cell service sitting up against the wall? Will your in-wall outlets get 5G service? I doubt it.

Wi-Fi, combined with cell boosters, will help your home stay connected the way you want it to. But at the moment, you really want Wi-Fi and cellular.

5G will not kill Wi-Fi until there’s a way to make it private.

This article talks about Citizens Broadband Radio Services, which will eventually be private 5G networks. Using a CBRS will let people get online and still be relatively secure. But, this isn’t a technology that is designed for the average user. It’s for large enterprises and schools.

When you use cellular data, all your information is going out to the internet. It’s fairly secure, although I’ve warned before that without a VPN your data could be easy to steal. There will always be some information you want to have locally and not share. This could be private financial information or just 7,000 photos of your cat. Either way 5G will not protect you any more than traditional cell service does. For that, you need a Wi-Fi network that’s securely behind a router.

But yes, it could eventually happen.

As I started this article telling you, every technology has its day. Wi-Fi, no matter how it evolves, isn’t as user-friendly as cellular. You still have to do the work to maintain it in your home. I can see a day in the future where you have only one internet bill, and it covers both your cellular and home. But I believe that will happen with the coming of fixed wireless, which will still need Wi-Fi to distribute networking in the home.

Eventually, though, I do think that 5G service will be strong enough to take the place of Wi-Fi. But certainly that’s not going to happen this year. First we need a strong, nationwide millimeter-wave 5G network. Then add to that 5G chips that are cheap enough to put in everything, and a billing infrastructure that will make it all possible for regular folks. That’s certainly a ways off. So, don’t worry Wi-Fi, you still have a place in our lives for a while.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.