Fast, low-latency, high-capacity networks are needed in today's environment. However, these advanced networks face a significant challenge: combining speed, reliability, and flexibility with security.
Until recently, much debate has been about which technology was better for protection purposes. There seemed to be a constant battle between users who saw more advantages in Wi-Fi 6 and users who preferred 5G networks. Both technologies offer a range of benefits for businesses depending on their characteristics, so is it vital to choose just one to stay safe?
3 key differences between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
First, we need to stress that when we talk about Wi-Fi 6, we are referring to a version of WLAN technology, whereas 5G is a mobile technology, and any other distinctions are governed by this difference:
- Authentication: Wi-Fi 6 typically supports the WPA3 security protocol with strong encryption and enhanced protection. Likewise, it incorporates simultaneous authentication of equals (SAE) as part of that protocol, as well as Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE), which enables encrypted connections even without a password; or enterprise authentication through, for example, the Extensible Authentication Protocol, such as 802.1X/EAP. In 5G networks, we find subscriber identity module authentication, with SIM cards like those used in mobile phones; authentication and key agreement (AKA); enhanced authentication and key agreement (EAP-AKA); or certificate-based authentication.
- Network security: Wi-Fi 6 improves encryption keys; or has an energy-saving sleep mode, the target wake-up time, which reduces exposure time to potential attacks. These networks make it possible to segment the network and place IoT devices separately, thus reducing the potential attack surface. Meanwhile, 5G networks based on virtualization and SDN, technologies that offer flexibility and scalability, pose new security challenges. However, 5G networks introduce several security concepts, such as security anchor functions, permanent subscription identifiers, and hidden subscription identifiers, which enable secure and seamless re-authentication of a connected device as it moves between networks, which previous generations of mobile technology could not guarantee.
- Use cases: Wi-Fi 6 is prevalent in homes and offices due to its higher capacity and speeds, especially indoors. 5G can be an ideal option for applications that require continuous uptime and mandatory throughput requirements. Thus, 5G is an excellent option for enterprises with larger environments supporting more devices, such as hospitals, educational centers, factories, and industrial IoT.
What are the advantages of combining Wi-Fi 6 and 5G?
Despite their differences, many experts highlight the potential benefits of partnering the two technologies. The benefits of combining them include:
By employing both technologies, if one of them is compromised, it is possible to switch to the other connection to continue service seamlessly. On the one hand, 5G offers wide geographical coverage, while Wi-Fi 6 works better. This means that because they overlap, any wireless service gap is eliminated. In addition, when deployed in a unified fashion, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 offer more options to end users who can easily switch between the two connections based on location, security requirements, or access privileges.
More effective segmentation:
Depending on the security and performance needs of different users and/or devices, by combining both technologies you can assign each of them to a specific network to ensure the highest reliability and security for all of them.
When used together, these connectivity options can enable innovation in networks, such as the growth of IoT and Edge computing capabilities.
Flexibility and adaptability:
They can provide better support for remote workforces, as well as strengthen overall network connectivity with speed, reliability, and flexibility.
It’s clear that the debate over which is the better option has become obsolete. Being able to rely on both technologies benefits business productivity and flexibility significantly. However, we need to know that both can be guaranteed equally. In this regard, solutions that enable this combination are helpful, like WatchGuard's Firebox T45, with integrated SD-WAN technology and optional 5G, which allows you to ensure the security of both connection paths and thus obtain all the benefits of combined use to drive your business.