Is there a future where 5G replaces Wi-Fi? The higher frequencies of the new cellular standard promise data rates of up to 10 Gbps along with increased capacities, higher data throughputs, and latency times down to less than a millisecond. But while all this is raising great expectations among users and providers of real-time transmissions, so far these values are available in theory only.
Three basic scenarios are in planning: Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communication (mMTC), and ultra-reliable low-latency communication (uRLLC). But will 5G be making Wi-Fi superfluous in the near future?
Where 5G makes sense
5G is an exciting prospect for broadband Internet connectivity at peripheral locations such as at branches on green-field sites, or as a powerful Internet connection backup. Because of the central role that digital processes are taking on today, this benefits any company looking for highest availability .
A good illustration of the benefits of 5G is the support it offers for temporary locations. Be it a construction site, pop-up store, festival site or a large event: With the help of 5G, they can all be connected to the cellular network—and thus to the Internet—with unprecedented amounts of bandwidth. Compared to Wi-Fi, setting up and taking down these short-lived networks is much easier and quicker.
High security requirements
Compared to previous standards, 5G faces much tougher cybersecurity requirements. Virtualization, cloud and edge computing make the network infrastructure far more complex, and thus more vulnerable. Instead of proprietary hardware, backbone infrastructures are based on standard equipment, which can be targeted with CPU attacks such as Meltdown or Specter. Also, the growing numbers of simple IoT devices is exponentially increasing the susceptible attack surface. Another factor is that privately operated campus networks may not meet the same security standards as provider networks. This all means that operators of 5G networks have a lot to do in terms of security.
5G: A rarity in campus networks
The first 5G networks may well be setup on campuses much sooner than public 5G networks. Companies can acquire exclusive usage rights for frequencies between 3,700 and 3,800 MHz. One appeal of this is the extreme stability: After all, nobody can “interfere”. You can also work with very high transmission powers. This could be a decisive criterion, especially for critical applications. On the downside, a 5G campus installation is extremely complex and expensive. The infrastructure investments alone exceed those of Wi-Fi many times over. That’s not the only reason why Wi-Fi will (have to) remain the first choice for local networking for most companies—above all, wireless LAN is in no way inferior to 5G in terms of performance thanks to the improvements with Wi-Fi 6.
In high-density scenarios, Wi-Fi 6 has a particularly important role to play: For a balanced Wi-Fi experience where there are large numbers of clients—such as open-plan offices, sports stadiums, educational institutions, shopping centers or trade fairs—you need a future-proof infrastructure that delivers the full potential of Wi-Fi 6. Find out more in our Wi-Fi 6 blog series.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 can be the ideal team
The fact is: With 5G and Wi-Fi 6, mobile operators and Wi-Fi providers have new, faster standards. Ideally, there should be no need for either/or decisions. Optimized networks could well offer the advantages of both technologies.