The Hype About 5G Home Wi-Fi
by Bob Hance on Monday, May 2, 2022
I’ve seen a lot of commercials lately promoting 5G cellular home Wi-Fi. I have to admit; the Jim Carrey ones are very entertaining. And they make this up-and-coming service sound appealing. It can be, particularly for mobile devices and communications. But what does it mean for the big screen in your living room? I want to share my thoughts.
Let’s start with the basics: 5G is the fifth generation of wireless networks, and like all technology, each generation gets a little better – at least in a few ways. 5G is significantly faster than 4G, but it also doesn’t travel quite as far, and it has problems with obstructions.
Using 5G for your home Wi-Fi is similar to using your phone as a mobile hotspot. It uses a system of wireless repeaters that connect to an antenna on your home. Generally, it’s more reliable than satellite--as long as there is a 5G cell tower near you. However, you still must watch out for a few things.
Number one is access. If you own a 5G-capable device, check it from your living room. Does it show 5G at the top? If not, you’re out of luck. Seems obvious, but you can’t get 5G if there isn’t a tower in your area. And it’s largely not in rural areas. Sound familiar?
Now let’s talk speed. Some 5G frequencies have the potential for high speeds--that is, in absolutely ideal conditions, which includes a close distance to a tower. Additionally, some providers won’t even advertise specific speeds on their sites. Why? Because the speeds fluctuate based on network congestion and other issues. Plus, buried in the fine print, you may find that you actually get 4G, or slower, service in certain conditions. Often, you get the “best available” at any given time. Sounds a lot like satellite.
Latency, which is closely related to speed, also matters. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from its original source to its destination. Every time you click around on a site, browse shows on Netflix, or play games online, you deal with latency. Higher latency means your information super-highway feels slower.
Last, there is reliability. Bad weather, trees, and other obstacles impact signal strength and your service experience. The further you are from the cell tower, the more potential for interference. And depending on the type of 5G service, your walls might even block the signal coming into your house.
All in all this “promising" technology leaves a lot to be desired at the moment.
But this column is not intended to spend 400 words knocking 5G cellular Wi-Fi. 5G is definitely a good option for mobile devices when you are on the go. It will serve that use well. But at home, or at work, you want service you can count on, all the time.