5G is the next-generation cellular technology which will replace 4G LTE and is expected to transform connectivity. By using the current mobile data frequencies in new ways and adding newly-available higher frequency bands, 5G will provide an alternative to fixed-line broadband. In the age of cloud computing, it will be used to enable a novel business network topology for all connected devices. 5G is estimated to create a wide range of opportunities for businesses; from giving birth to new products, services and industries, to remotely assisting small enterprises to become more productive and competitive.
However, is the technology enough on its own or will it depend on a new version of WiFi, also known as WiFi 6, which is also about to roll out this year? WiFi 6, the next generation of wireless network is expected to bring the capability of connecting many more devices to one access point than WiFi 5, along with faster data speeds and quicker response times, according to analysts, which can add tremendous value to 5G cellular. Experts say that WiFi 6 will have a great impact on how 5G is adopted across multiple industries, and give energy into the market applications and service innovations.
Advantages Of WiFi 6
WiFi 4 and WiFi 5 cannot handle not just the number of devices, but the complexity diverse devices actually bring upon a network. WiFi 6 will increase speeds, enhance coverage, expand the number of devices that can run at once, improve video streaming capabilities, and provide better battery life as well. The best selling point for WiFi 6 is that it can give to four times better wireless performance in congested places, compared to WiFi 5 (802.11ac). Each of WiFi 6 products will be able to connect thousands of devices. Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access in WiFi 6 improves multiple aspects of WiFi delivery by making it more efficient by lowering latency and enhancing the overall quality of service in congested, high-demand areas. This will be of great benefit as the Internet of Things is expanded to more homes and businesses and the number of devices connecting to the WiFi increase. WiFi 6 will also work with both with today’s standard frequencies (using 2.4 GHz and 5GHz) and future bands (1GHz and 6GHz) when it goes live.
Companies Are Working On The Convergence of WiFi 6 and 5G
A big and fast expanding operators and vendors are working for creating WiFi 6 devices and services, making the case that WiFi will work along with 5G and other wireless technologies for enhancing connectivity. For example, chip designer Qualcomm is betting big on WiFi 6. The company has showcased processors that’ll bring WiFi 6 to a new range of network equipment. The Qualcomm Networking Pro Series and Qualcomm FastConnect 6800 Subsystem are based on a totally novel chipset architecture and designed to propel the adoption of WiFi 6 as 5G begins to take hold. Qualcomm says its chips will help bring in an era of connectivity innovation where WiFi 6 and 5G work together to face the task of providing ultra high-speed connectivity to thousands of connected devices in one go.
Apart from that, Cisco – one of the biggest providers of network access points to companies, is offering new WiFi 6 access devices. The company is partnering with companies including Samsung Electronics Co. to ensure roaming between cellular and WiFi becomes smoother. Cisco has estimated that 50% of internet data traffic is carried by WiFi, and devices must be able to transition seamlessly between cellular and WiFi networks.
Similarly, recently the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) — a group of operators and vendors working to include WiFi technologies in the cellular industry — along with the NGMN Association, an organisation focused on 5G, produced a report detailing use cases that take advantage from the convergence of 5G and WiFi. The two groups reported that the 3GPP’s Release 15 provides support for interworking between 5G and WiFi.
How WiFi 6 Will Help 5G Operators
Telecom operators have looked at WiFi as a source of revenue in homes and businesses for a long time. Operators that want to create additional revenue opportunities are looking at the possibilities that WiFi 6 will give in the age of 5G. Operators that utilise WiFi 6 are expected to acquire the capability, coverage and performance needed for many beneficial use cases for different revenue streams from the services including The Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and connected vehicles. The integration of WiFi 6 and 5G will provide operators innovative ways to optimise traffic across access networks, and operators will be afforded the ability to direct traffic to the interface that gives the best user experience or the most optimum use of network resources. This will depend on operator policy, network conditions, traffic or specific application use cases.
WiFi 6 will also play a crucial role for operators that already use WiFi to provide data and voice services to customers. In areas with high traffic density and/or indoor where cell network coverage is low, WiFi is frequently used as an offload and complementary technology to reduce congestion and add network capacity. WiFi offload will continue to provide huge cost savings to mobile operators in a 5G world. Operators will optimise their network resources by balancing traffic across wireless access interfaces to improve both the user experience and network resource utilisation. The integration of WiFi 6 and 5G will grant operators the capability to allocate traffic flows to the best access interface based on real-time network conditions and user demand.
We have seen hype about whether 5G cellular or WiFi 6 will win in the enterprise, but the reality is that the two are largely complementary with an overlap for some use cases. Both technologies are arriving and delivering on many of the same demands at the same time.
Both 5G and WiFi 6 bring a promise of dramatically better performance to mobile workers and the enterprise. Since they are complementary technologies, they will provide higher data rates to support new applications and increases in network capacity with the ability to connect more devices. This is important for mission-critical IoT devices being used in manufacturing automation, healthcare, energy, and many other industries. Combined, 5G and WiFi 6 will improve signal strength to support IoT deployments, support always-on devices and reduce overcrowding of resources with high-capacity networks. In essence, IoT devices will be able to send more information and use less power.