The world is moving fast towards implementing 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technology, with various lobbying organizations and news outlets antagonizing both entities, giving the impression that there’s some sort of war going on. The reason for this is because of their polarizing nature – 5G is the fifth generation of mobile network technology that relies on cell towers and licensed spectrum bands, whereas Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the latest version of Wi-Fi that operates in unlicensed spectrum bands.
Which is faster and more reliable? There isn’t a single true answer to that – both have their pros and cons; but on the flip side, why fight when both are obviously in need of each other? These two are a match made in heaven, destined to support each other and bring wireless connectivity to a new level. Celeno believes that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are both necessary in order to meet future demands for connectivity. Here are the main reasons why these technologies should support one another instead of going to war.
Wi-Fi 6 is Going to Offload 5G Traffic
This might come as a surprise to some people, but both industries are already working in unison. Wi-Fi is responsible for reducing congestion in 4G mobile networks by offloading data traffic – if it wasn’t for Wi-Fi, mobile networks would get jam-packed very fast, resulting in slower reception and delays. It’s fair to assume that such practice will continue on when 5G takes the stage, as it won’t be able to handle traffic both indoors and outdoors.
The synergy between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will enable traffic flow allocation to the best access interface based on real-time network conditions and user demand, thus optimizing the 5G network, balancing traffic across wireless access interfaces and improving user experience. Cisco is actually predicting that 5G will offload 71% of its traffic to Wi-Fi by 2022.
Source of Diagram: Cisco VNI Global Mobile Traffic Forecast, 2017-2022
A Helping Hand Through Backhauling
5G is often presented as a potential large-scale replacement for wireless WANs and even wired broadband services. Well, even if that would happen, they would still need a powerful backhauling solution to connect the point-to-point 5G mm wave signals that typically reaches the window of the home, to the Wi-Fi AP which is usually located in the center of the home (usually in the living room).
We claim that such a backbone (or backhaul) connection would be most effectively served over the new 6GHz band of the Wi-Fi 6E standard. (as shown on the right of the figure below). Some operators may consider using a 5Gmm device that will be placed adjacent to the window and will connect the Wi-Fi AP in the home over 5Gmm waves. But such a device would typically cost somewhere between $100 and $200, as opposed to the Wi-Fi alternative that costs around $10.
Not only that the Wi-Fi 6E option is a lot more cost-effective, it’s also a very robust solution technically because it’s a band which is relatively clean of interference, and would not impose on the Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands that would be serving connectivity to the end devices.
There’s No Point in Rivalry
Kevin Robinson, VP Marketing of the Wi-Fi alliance, presented the following slide at the Wi-Fi NOW event last November.
Source of Diagram: Kevin Robinson, VP Marketing of the Wi-Fi alliance
The grey area of the “spider web” shows the conceptual performance of 5G in 8 different attributes. The grey area shows how Wi-Fi 6 compares to the 5G performance on those same capabilities. It’s clear from looking at this diagram that the 2 technologies complement each other. Wi-Fi 6 “shines” in capacity and latency and 5G is no doubt the “queen” of mobility. On some of the other aspects they are comparable.
As far as Wi-Fi 6 goes, whether it’s HD video streaming, AR/VR applications, smart home devices or wearables, it’s quite obvious that 5G won’t be enough to fully serve people’s digital needs. Moreover, without the ability to offload traffic to Wi-Fi, 5G networks could become more expensive and less efficient – mobile operators would have to build denser networks by deploying more small cells in urban areas.
Alan Norman, Public Policy Director at Facebook, recently stated that “...Wi-Fi is key to economic growth and social development, key to achieving the EU ́s connectivity goals, and key to 5G's success…”.
We’re living in an increasingly interconnected world, so the demand for network efficiency, speed and reliable technology will only grow. The bottom line is that only by combining both mediums can we meet the ever increasing demand for quality wireless connectivity. So what’s the point of rivalry?