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How the marriage of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 is set to unleash wireless nirvana

Here’s how the latest wireless standards, 5G and Wi-Fi 6, will work together to deliver blazing-fast connectivity and thrilling experiences.

With new wireless technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi 6 racing into our hands, we're entering an age of constant connectivity at fiber-like speeds. These new technologies are bringing unbelievable experiences – downloading a full season of a television show in seconds, seamlessly storing and retrieving your photos and videos from the cloud, or playing the latest console-quality games online with friends, all while riding the train to work. Here's a look at how and what to expect as 5G and Wi-Fi 6 intersect.

We're accustomed to relying on cellular service – like 4G or LTE – for on-the-go wireless internet access across a variety of environments, while Wi-Fi has been a reliable source of connectivity at home, in cafes, and other mostly indoor environments. The goal of both cellular and Wi-Fi, despite the differences in how the two technologies are developed and deployed, has always been to keep you connected as you move throughout your day.

Fans on stadium game panorama view
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Whether you're using Wi-Fi or cellular depends on a host of factors ranging from:

Fundamental capabilities of the technology and its range: For example, Wi-Fi brings you internet when you're in the basement, while cellular keeps you connected when you walk to the park.

The situation and application: For example, wirelessly streaming 4K videos from your last trip or concert to watch them with friends on the living room TV is the perfect job for Wi-Fi.

Cost: At home, you may prefer to use your own Wi-Fi connection to avoid using your cellular data plan, but if a hotel charges you for Wi-Fi access, you may prefer to use cellular instead.

The two newest wireless technologies, 5G and Wi-Fi 6, are both making their debut in smartphones in 2019 after companies like Qualcomm Technologies spent years researching, helping define the standards, and commercializing the platforms that enable them. These new technologies have been developed to accommodate the needs of today and tomorrow's much more densely populated and congested networks and – perhaps more exciting – to enable entirely new paths of innovation for developers, device manufacturers, and carriers to leverage and thrill their customers.

Here's what you might expect from your device with 5G and Wi-Fi 6:

  • Your connection will be great AND consistent, whether you are in a crowded sports arena, a coffee shop, or on a busy street corner
  • You will be able to download massive files – a whole movie or large game application – in seconds
  • Seamless VR and AR experiences and gaming will be possible with real-time interaction
  • No buffering or pausing when watching videos
  • Real-time communication between devices
  • Less power consumption, so your device's battery lasts longer

You've undoubtedly already heard about 5G, the next-generation cellular technology delivering a faster internet connection up to ten times the speed of today's mainstream 4G. Beyond speed, however, 5G is designed to increase network capacity by up to 100x. This means that cellular networks have an increased ability to deliver data to many devices connected simultaneously. Think way beyond smartphones, laptops, and tablets – cars, industrial machines, drones and many other objects will be able to connect to the same network, without slowing everything else down.

With Wi-Fi 6, capacity is also the name of the game. Instead of focusing on increasing speed for just a few devices, Wi-Fi 6 is designed to prioritize and organize the Wi-Fi load on dozens of devices, increasing capacity four-fold compared to older Wi-Fi technology.

With a home, work, or public network based on Wi-Fi 6, you'll notice:

  • Significant speed/performance improvement across devices, even if many devices are being used at once
  • Much lower latency for quicker responsiveness
  • Reduction of signal interference from neighboring networks
  • Greater range to reach devices farther from the router
  • Better service in congested networks
  • Better protection of your privacy with increased end-to-end security

With Wi-Fi 6, you'll need to keep an eye on your options to ensure you're getting the right technology to support the best Wi-Fi experience. Study up on key features like 8x8 MU-MIMO for your next router, and ensure your next smartphone supports 8-stream sounding. Or you can simply choose devices that are built with Wi-Fi 6 supporting technology from a pioneer like Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Together, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are enabling an era of connectivity defined by the efficient delivery of wireless capacity to more devices in more places than ever before. Even better, networks and devices delivering these cutting-edge wireless connectivity technologies are here today. Scores of mobile operators have announced 5G deployment plans, while Wi-Fi 6 network deployments are well underway across home, enterprise and carrier segments.

qualcomm Wi-Fi 6 Networking device

Many of the newest smartphones based on Qualcomm Technologies' Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform support Wi-Fi 6 features , 5G cellular technology, or both.

5G and Wi-Fi 6 are here, and are working together to change the way people are connected at home and on-the-go. With reduced latency along with increased speed, capacity, and efficiency, expect more seamless interactions over the internet, as well as cutting-edge experiences like multiplayer cloud gaming, watch parties with video chat, AR and VR, and much more.

To learn more about Qualcomm Technologies' vision for Wi-Fi 6, click here.