Other Than a Letter and Number, Not All 5G is the Same!
You’ve probably heard of 5G wireless. It refers to 5G cellular, but 5GHz Wi-Fi technology is often shortened to 5G as well – even though it’s not the same thing. Confused yet? You’re not alone.
Generation vs. Gigahertz
Smartphones, tablets, cellular-enabled laptops, and wireless routers can connect to the internet using their mobile carrier’s data service instead of Wi-Fi. Cellular companies label each successive generation with a “G”, so 5G simply stands for “fifth generation.” It’s the latest cellular standard and replaces 4G (“fourth generation”) technology. It is primarily used for connecting mobile devices to higher speed networks while staying portable or mobile.
Explaining 5GHz gets a little technical. Wi-Fi 5G refers to the frequency band that is used to connect to the internet. It’s named after the connection speed (5 gigahertz), so technically, it’s 5GHz … but is often shortened to 5G.
The 5GHz spectrum of the airwaves was developed in 2009 as a faster alternative to the 2.4GHz band widely in use at the time. This was long before cellular companies had reached their fifth generation, so some routers simply display their Wi-Fi connection as 5G … which adds to the confusion. The only commonality between the two is the letter and number combination.
Fiber Makes 5G Possible
Fiber optics — long, thin strands of glass that transmit data via pulses of light — make both 5G cellular and 5GHz Wi-Fi possible. Golden West is rolling out fiber to all subscribers. Together, they make up the information superhighway.
Golden West Director of Engineering and Operations Nick Rogness uses the “highway” analogy to explain the relationship between all three technologies.
“In this model, fiber would be the U.S. interstate backbone and highways, 5G would be comparable to county roads, and 5GHz would be your driveway,” Rogness says. “Fiber is used for communicating long distances with the highest level of quality; 5G covers a much shorter distance — from tower to device — at high speeds; and 5GHz is for very short-range communication.”
Getting the Most from Your Home Wi-Fi Network
While the 5GHz frequency offers faster speeds, more capacity, and less interference than 2.4Ghz, certain factors can affect performance. These range from the number of users to the ages of the devices being used. One of the most important — and often overlooked — is the placement of your router. This should be placed in the middle of the house or near most of your connected devices whenever possible.
Other tips for maximizing your home Wi-Fi network include:
- Unplug Unused Devices – Unplug or disconnect any unused devices. Many connected devices continue to use bandwidth even when they’re turned off.
- Upgrade If Possible – Whether it’s approving a software update or purchasing a new tablet, upgrades are designed to improve device performance and user experience. Make sure new purchases will operate on the 5GHz frequency.
- Plug-In – Wired internet connections may not be as convenient as Wi-Fi but plugging a laptop into the router (via an Ethernet cable) will provide the best connection available to the home.
- Take Turns Online – When there are multiple users and devices connected to the home network, taking turns will limit overall demand and can help improve connection quality.
Hopefully, that helps explain the ABCs of 5G and will provide you with tips on maximizing your home Wi-Fi network!
Sources: Some information for this article was provided by online articles from Forbes.com, Lifewire, Smart Aerials, and How-To Geek.