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Given the application-driven, technology-fueled age we live in, there’s an ongoing quest for a reliable, high-performing internet connection with minimum lag and faster response times. As such, the debate around “LTE vs. WiFi” remains a hot topic. But while WiFi is still  the preferred choice of some organizations, an increasing number of small and large technology companies are waking up to the enormous benefits of cellular networks, particularly LTE.

But is it the right choice for your organization? And, what is the difference between LTE and WiFi?

If you’re an enterprise grappling with the decision of LTE or WiFi for your network needs, and trying to decide whether to deploy LTE technology to supplement or potentially replace your existing WiFi network, then read on.

The Internet Technology Debate – LTE or WiFi?

Before we deep-dive into the WiFi vs. LTE debate, let’s briefly examine what we mean by the LTE internet connection and WiFi standard, two popular internet technologies.

What Is WiFi?

WiFi may be a buzzword in the present digital age dominated by smart devices and electronic media. But what exactly is WiFi?

WiFi is the name given to a wireless networking protocol, which allows us to communicate data wirelessly, that is, without internet cords. A trademark of an international association of companies known as the WiFi Alliance, the term WiFi represents a type of wireless local area network (LAN) protocol.

A device called a router helps several types of computing devices connect to the wireless network and send and receive data including files, audio, and video. The router transmits the wireless signal, which facilitates data communication within a fixed location. It’s important to remember that while the term WiFi is used to denote ‘wireless’, the latter is a much broader term.

What is LTE?

Long Term Evolution or LTE, as it’s commonly called, refers to the 4G technology or 4th generation wireless broadband standard. It’s a communication standard for data terminals, mobile devices, and smartphones.

The LTE standard is a superior, high-speed, high-security wireless cellular network. It’s also highly reliable, provided that a good LTE signal is available. The fact that it uses radio waves instead of microwaves, unlike 3G and WiMAX, gives it a better penetration and wider coverage that also extends to remote areas.

LTE versus WiFi: Which is More Suitable?

While both LTE and WiFi serve the same need — to communicate data over the internet — the choice between LTE or WiFi is not just a matter of technology, range, speed, performance, and bandwidth, but also about aligning with your specific enterprise needs.

Technology

A key difference between LTE and WiFi is the way they connect to the internet.One of the many advantages of using LTE is that it doesn’t require a router to connect to the cellular data network. To use the public LTE network, all you need is a data plan and a mobile device to connect to your cellular service provider’s network. With WiFi, on the other hand, a wireless router is needed to access the internet through your laptop, smartphone, or any other device.

Security

When accessing the internet, security is a primary concern — especially if you’re a small or large enterprise that deals with confidential company and client information. Although no network can be 100 % secure, in the LTE vs. WiFi debate cellular data clearly ranks higher in terms of security for several reasons.

An important factor driving the high security standards of cellular data networks is that service providers have strong incentives to protect users’ privacy and safeguard their data. A misstep in the security domain could mean loss of reputation and business, even running the risk of huge financial losses. Therefore, network operators have dedicated cyber security professionals who develop frequent security updates, keeping risks to a minimum. WiFi, on the other hand, is owned and operated by individual entities that may not develop security updates at all or as frequently, increasing consumers’ vulnerability to cyber risks.

Another factor that increases the vulnerability of WiFi users is that it’s possible to create fake WiFi networks to which consumers unsuspectingly connect. This practically gives criminals a free virtual tour of their browsing activity. In contrast, the enormous scale and size of cellular networks are huge deterrents for criminals’ attempts to create imitations, thus eliminating the possibility of fake cellular networks.

Finally, since cellular data is encrypted by default, there’s no room for error. On the other hand, when using WiFi, you need to turn on the encryption and missing this crucial step leaves you vulnerable to cyber security threats and hacks. As you can see, LTE is the clear winner in terms of security, which increases its popularity with technological firms and IoT application developers.

Coverage

When considering LTE or WiFi, a clear and significant advantage of LTE cellular networks is that they provide widespread network coverage, typically nationwide, to subscribers, in contrast to the limited area access provided by WiFi.

Given that WiFi is basically a local area network (LAN), it provides extremely limited coverage. Upon exiting the 300-ft. radius of the router, subscribers lose coverage and need to look for other alternatives. Therefore, relying solely on a WiFi network can be very limiting and inconvenient especially for executives and working professionals who need to travel on a regular basis.

This is why it’s considered almost mandatory to subscribe to a cellular network that offers a much broader coverage no matter where you go. What’s more, LTE coverage is expected to expand even further with rapid advancements in cellular technology, especially 5G. To top it all, standard Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) cellular IoT technologies go several steps further, extending coverage to rural environments, underground tunnels, and buildings.

Bandwidth

How fast is LTE compared to WiFi? WiFi networks offer a variety of data communication speeds such as 11 Mbps54 Mbps, 600 Mbps, and 1Gbps, depending on the specification. The new WiFi 6 offers speeds as high as 10 Gbps. Until recently, the WiFi standard had a clear advantage over cellular networks in terms of bandwidth or speed.

However, with the introduction of the 4G LTE standard, cellular networks have considerably bridged the gap in the LTE vs Wifi speed debate, offering connectivity as fast as 1Gbps – allowing users to enjoy video and other high-bandwidth IoT applications. Now with the advent of the 5G standard, cellular networks are poised to revolutionize data transfer speeds, even offering rates as high as 10 Gbps. This means there’s little to no difference between the bandwidths offered by the two technologies.

Dedicated Bands for Different Applications

While the bandwidths of WiFi and LTE technologies are almost the same, other factors can hamper the speed of a WiFi network. For instance, since WiFi is on a shared, unlicensed band, it can be used by several different applications like weather sensors, remote controls, electric meter readers, and Bluetooth at the same time, causing a severe lag that slows the network.

In addition, since WiFi is not coordinated, subscribers must rely on a “listen before talk” protocol that compels a device to patiently wait and do nothing while waiting for its turn to “talk”, in case there’s other traffic on the band.

In contrast, LTE has dedicated frequency bands for different applications, which ensures that consumers don’t have to compete with other technologies in the same bands, minimizing the probability of a lag.

Also, since the frequencies and resources of the LTE standard protocol are coordinated, it’s like having a moderator controlling the debate, unlike the WiFi technology where everyone is “shouting”. To get a sense of the probable chaos in the WiFi standard, imagine a scenario in a gym, where there’s a basketball and volleyball game going on simultaneously, while you’re trying to have a debate with no moderator!

Impact of 5G on the Future of Connectivity

If you’re wondering how fast the LTE standard is — or better still, how to make it faster — the answer is 5G. As LTE migrates to 5G, it promises to revolutionize the future of cellular networks, with not only its extended network capacity and lower latency but also significantly faster response times and a greater bandwidth.

LTE has already gained widespread adoption due to its high security, large scale, and extensive coverage. Add to this the vast potential of 5G, and cellular networks emerge as the clear winner. If your enterprise hasn’t yet tapped into the benefits of the LTE technology, it would be a good time to start now. Relying solely on WiFi to stay connected is never a good idea.

Whether you’re thinking of deploying the LTE standard to complement or replace your WiFi network, WilsonPro — the leader in cellular signal repeater solutions — can help enhance the cellular network in your building, improving its reliability, speed, performance, and security.

To learn more about our cellular signal repeaters, contact one of our representatives today.

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