CES is underway, and D-Link has already announced a new 5G router. But while 5G might sound great, you probably don’t have it in your area right now. So, you shouldn’t plan to jump on this router just yet.
The D-Link 5G NR Enhanced Gateway (what a name!) is a cellular modem that happens to provide Wi-Fi. It’s not a standard Wi-Fi router. Think of it like a more powerful Mobile Hotspot that isn’t mobile. You’ll connect this to a carrier (like Verizon or AT&T if they allow it), and then broadcast the Internet throughout your home.
You can only use this if you have 5G Internet in your area.
Unfortunately, the naming for Wi-Fi and cellular protocols are similar and confusing. The Wi-FI Alliance is trying to improve this with a simplified naming scheme, but while that will go a long way in keeping track of which Wi-Fi protocol is better, it won’t help keep the difference between Wi-Fi 5 and 5G straight.
5G and 5 GHz Wi-Fi aren’t the same things.
With a name so close, it’s easy to get confused. 5G is cellular service like your smartphone uses. And 5 GHz refers to the wireless spectrum your Wi-Fi router can use. You can’t take your existing Wi-Fi router and connect it to 5G cellular service. And you can’t take this device and connect it to your existing home Internet provider to give your house Wi-Fi. You need 5G service in your area to take advantage of this device.
When 5G service arrives, it could very well be amazing. The theoretical limit to 5G service is 10 Gbps. Right now, most FIOS and some cable providers top out at 1 Gbps. That’s an incredible jump in speed. Additionally, carriers can potentially roll out 5G in rural areas where it’s cost-prohibitive to lay down FIOS or better cable lines.
It’s possible that through the use of small cell devices, 5G could become ubiquitous in places where high-speed Internet is unheard of right now. Someday. But that’s years away. That fact show’s in D-Link’s press release:
“With expanded spectrum and new applications, 5G is going to bring more competition to the broadband market within the coming years…”
So if you were to buy a 5G modem today, the chances are it wouldn’t do you any good.
Don’t go out of your way looking for this hardware. Right now, it’s unclear if D-Link will sell this device directly to consumers. Even if D-Link does sell it to consumers, that doesn’t mean your provider will let you use the device. Currently, Verizon provides a Samsung 5G router for anyone who has that service. And since this is cellular service and not just plain Wi-Fi, the carriers will have control over what devices can connect.
A 5G modem like this could make sense. If you have 5G in your area, this will allow you to connect to it and then broadcast Internet to your other devices that don’t have cellular radios of any kind (such as your laptops). They would benefit from the fast speed, and you wouldn’t have to buy a new laptop or an add-on modem.
Another benefit to buying this is the promised Mesh capabilities. But if you already have mesh, or don’t want to buy D-Link mesh devices, then this device still won’t help. Right now mesh devices from different brands don’t talk to each other. The Wi-Fi Alliance has released a mesh standard for just this purpose, but most router makers haven’t implemented it, and D-Link hasn’t promised to do so here.
New technology is often exciting. And the promise of substantial speed gains, especially in rural areas, does grab attention. But like almost all new technology, it’s best to take a wait-and-see attitude until all the details shake themselves out.