Originally published on IoT for All, February 26, 2019

Thanks to two new wireless standards rolling out this year—WiFi 6 and 5G—2019 is shaping up to be a watershed year for the Internet of Things (IoT). These new technologies are expected to revolutionize IoT, and mobile communications in general, with blazing speeds, low power requirements, and high bandwidth. Let’s see what these emerging technologies are all about and why they’re so exciting for the future of IoT.

WiFi 6 Is More Than Just a Name

WiFi 6 is the name for the next generation of the wireless standard, following the current 802.11ac protocol. WiFi 6 is technically called 802.11ax, but in addition to new wireless technology, it’s also bringing with it a new naming scheme: it’ll be known simply as WiFi 6, while 802.11ac will be referred to as WiFi 5.

WiFi 6 will be up to four times faster in device-dense areas and offer much greater bandwidth than its predecessor. With internet service getting faster than ever, WiFi 6 will allow wireless devices to take full advantage of these new speeds.

These new technologies are expected to enable homes and businesses to have more devices active at once while using less energy. That’s important because experts predict nearly 31 billion installed IoT devices around the world by 2020.

5G Brings the Speed

5G is the name used for the next-gen cellular technology that will replace 4G LTE. Typically, cellular networks have covered larger areas, while WiFi handles things on a smaller scale. 5G may challenge this paradigm, though, with providers planning to offer personal 5G networks for in-home use.

5G cellular connections will be significantly faster than even the fastest LTE speeds currently available. Apart from faster speeds, 5G will bring much greater bandwidth and capacity to networks, just like WiFi 6. This will enable an explosion of devices as networks handle higher usage without a slowdown.

WiFi 6 and 5G Will Transform How We Use IoT Devices

Why all the fuss? Well, in addition to their faster speeds, both 5G and WiFi 6 will improve signal strength in congested areas, like downtown urban centers or crowded homes. These are places that previously had too much wireless traffic to make always-on devices practical, but with higher-capacity networks, this overcrowding problem will become a thing of the past.

On the business side, the new speed and bandwidth of WiFi 6 networks could be used to provide faster guest WiFi for customers and could also power connected devices like beacons to provide additional services to shoppers. The efficiency of the new technology could potentially lower costs on both networks and the devices themselves, enabling even small businesses to take advantage of these new technologies.