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 huge influence on how 5G is deployed across multiple industry verticals, and give momentum to various technology applications and services.
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. The best feature 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-enabled solutions will be able to connect thousands of devices. Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access in WiFi 6 improves many aspects of WiFi delivery by making it more efficient by decreasing latency and improving the general standard of service in crowded, high-demand areas. This will be of great advantage as the Internet of Things is extended to more places and the number of devices connecting to the WiFi go exponential. WiFi 6 will also work with both with the prevalent standard frequencies (using 2.4 GHz and 5GHz) and future bands (1GHz and 6GHz) when it goes into action.
Companies Are Planning 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 instance, chip manufacturer Qualcomm is planning to go big on WiFi 6. The chip giant has displayed processors which will take WiFi 6 to a new reach of network devices. 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.
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.
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.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine (AIM) and writes on the latest in the world of analytics, AI and other emerging technologies. Previously, he worked as a senior correspondent for IDG CIO and ComputerWorld. Reach out to Vishal on Twitter @_vishalchawla