How is Wi-Fi different from 4G and 5G?


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How is Wi-Fi different from 4G and 5G?

A smartphone home screen with apps and icons.

What's coming up

In this activity, you'll learn the difference between Wi-Fi signals and mobile phone signals, such as 4G or the newer 5G.

Even though both types of signal can be used to connect wirelessly to the internet, 4G and 5G are really meant for when you are on the move.

The term '4G' stands for 'Fourth Generation' and likewise '5G' stands for 'Fifth Generation'. The 'G' or 'Generation' part refers to a generation of wireless technology. Each generation offers faster internet access than the previous generation.

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Wi-Fi vs 4G/5G range

Wi-Fi range

Wi-Fi relies on a router inside your home (or other building, such as a library) to provide a wireless internet connection to your devices.

The router can provide Wi-Fi reception to devices up to 30 metres away, so is great for local use. Wi-Fi is often referred to as the home internet.

An illustration showing that the range of Wi-Fi home internet signals is often up to approximately 30 metres, but the range of mobile internet connection is much farther and can be up to approximately 30 kilometres.
A mobile phone tower transmitting a Wi-Fi signal.

Wi-Fi vs 4G/5G range

4G/5G range

With 4G and 5G, mobile phone towers provide the wireless internet connection to your devices. A tower can provide wireless internet reception to devices many kilometres away, so is ideal for use across wide areas.

4G and 5G are often referred to as the mobile internet. Mobile internet can also work while you are moving around, such as on a bus or train.

Wi-Fi devices vs 4G/5G devices

Wi-Fi devices include TVs, speakers, fridges, laptop computers, phones and tablets, but 4G and 5G devices are mostly mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

For a device to connect to 4G and 5G wireless internet, it needs to be part of a mobile phone account.

A range of Wi-Fi devices including a smart fridge, TV and smartphone, and two of 4 G and 5 G devices of a smartphone and a tablet.
A representation of 4 G technology that is available now and has a fast internet connection, and 5 G which will be available soon and will have an even faster internet connection, but we will need new smartphones in order to use the new 5 G.

The difference between 4G and 5G

Wireless internet technology changes and improves all the time. The same can be said for mobile internet technology. The current fastest mobile internet is called fourth generation, or 4G.

Soon, a faster new network will be available. This fifth-generation network is known as 5G.

Mobile vs home network speed

A fast, wireless internet connection is a good internet connection. It means less waiting around for web pages to appear or for photos to upload. It also lets multiple people use the internet at once, without interruption.

For most people, 4G mobile internet will be a bit faster than a home Wi-Fi network. 5G will be much faster than most current Wi-Fi networks.

A representation showing that the coming 5 G will be the fastest internet connection around, with the current 4 G behind it and Wi-Fi behind that, showing that Wi-Fi is the slowest internet connection.

Mobile vs home network costs

The 4G and 5G mobile internet is faster and provides wider reception range than Wi-Fi, so why not use it all the time? You can, of course, but mobile internet is a lot more expensive than home internet.

For instance, everything you read, listen to or look at on the internet is sent to your device as data. Data is measured as gigabytes.

Well done!

You've reached the end of the How is Wi-Fi different from 4G and 5G? activity.

You've learned that Wi-Fi comes from a home internet connection, while 4G and 5G are mobile internet connections.

4G and especially 5G can be faster than a Wi-Fi network, but they are much more expensive.

Next up, if you have registered and are logged into the Be Connected website, you'll now be able to take a short quiz to finish the course. If you're not registered, you are now at the end of the course.

A man relaxing on his sofa using his mobile phone and his home Wi-Fi internet connection to browse the internet.