Next Generation Wireless: What You Need To Know About 5G And Wi-Fi 6

Introduction

Today we fundamentally rely on wireless networks to keep us connected, no matter where we are. It is a ‘utility’ we depend on for business and for pleasure.

New generation wireless technologies are now coming to market poised to deliver even better mobile experiences and open up new applications. 5G – the next generation cellular network technology – is starting trials this year (2018) and will eventually replace 4G LTE. And at the same time, we have Wi-Fi 6 – the next generation Wi-Fi standard, a.k.a. 802.11ax – coming to market.

While the promise of these new technologies is significant, there is also confusion – and hype – surrounding them. What will each of them really do, and when? And most importantly, how will these technologies impact you and your business?

Vendors and service providers have not helped the situation as they promote their own agendas when talking about the new tech, so let’s clear some things up.

What Are the Benefits?

5G promises blazing speeds, lower delay, and high density support. Wi-Fi 6 boasts greater capacity and density and better power efficiency. Faster, higher, stronger all the way around.

But what’s in it for you?

Seamless high performance access to information opens up a plethora of opportunity for developing new, never seen before applications: imagine walking into a store and using augmented reality to watch a live demonstration of the product you are pointing to in action, envision self-driving cars on a freeway, interacting with each other in real-time to ensure complete safety and coordinated traffic flow, or even imagine a surgeon performing a delicate operation, using virtual reality while he is in a different country, other than the patient.

The possibilities are compelling and endless. It is a call to action for businesses and other organizations to leverage both of these technologies and create new services and offerings. In many markets, the ability to successfully do this will be the difference between success and failure.

What Are the Differences?

While 5G and Wi-Fi 6 enable new and exciting applications, they are different from each other in many respects. 5G is a wide area technology, meaning it is deployed widely across cities and rural areas so we can connect anywhere. It is the primary technology used outdoors. Carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and BT deploy the infrastructure to support 5G and we pay them for the service for each device we connect.

By contrast, Wi-Fi is a local area technology, meaning we connect to it at a local site – a business, school, venue, etc. It is the primary technology used indoors. While it is typically free to use for the end user, someone (typically the local site) is ultimately paying for the Wi-Fi infrastructure and the Internet service it connects to. Some use cases say that 5G will be 10x’s faster than 4G, and Wi-Fi 6 will be 4x’s faster than Wi-Fi 5, yet the true speed won’t be known until they are both rolled out.

While addressing different use cases, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 together will enable the wireless service necessary to run advanced applications. They will ultimately work together to do this, each playing to its strengths in terms of how it is used, to cover indoor/outdoor usage across all types of devices.

The reality is, both of these next generation wireless technologies will continue to coexist as we move into the future. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are both needed, because they serve different use cases in some areas, even though they overlap in others.

When Will They Be Relevant?

5G will take a lot of time to roll out. Carriers are starting trials this year, and deployments will grow over time. It will take millions of sites to cover all the relevant area of a country, like the USA– it will take years. Ultimately, we are dependent on how fast the carriers invest and deploy the technology before we benefit.

Wi-Fi 6 will be more quickly adopted given it is typically the local business, school, venue, etc. that makes the decision to deploy. As products become more widely available in the market, it will increasingly be a viable option for new deployments.

A key consideration for adopting both technologies are the clients. Both the infrastructure (cell towers, access points) and the client devices (phones, laptops, etc.) must support the new technology to benefit from them. Unfortunately, it will take some time for 5G and Wi-Fi 6 to make their way into our devices. As of 2018, there is very little support. Only when they do in the coming years will we be able to reap the benefits.

What Else Should I Know?

The promises of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 sound great, but these new technologies alone are not a panacea. Lightning fast connections to your devices do not do much good if there is a choke point elsewhere in the network that can’t deliver the data fast enough. In many cases there will be upgrades needed to other infrastructure – servers, storage, wired networks – to ultimately deliver the new applications and services seamlessly.

For this reason, an end-to-end understanding and assurance of the proper operation of the ‘system’ that delivers these services is critical to everything working smoothly, especially with mission-critical services such as driverless cars and remote surgery. Monitoring solutions that provide visibility and ensure performance of the end-to-end communication path will become increasingly important to deliver this assurance.

Conclusion

5G and Wi-Fi 6 both hold great promise, but it will be a journey to get to where they are a part of our everyday lives. To support that journey, Riverbed’s next-gen infrastructure and visibility solutions can help ensure success. As these technologies develop and mature, complementary integration between the two will make it seamless as to what wireless technology we are using – things should just work. Only then will we have reached the point where wireless has become a true utility.

SOURCE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/riverbed/2018/10/18/next-generation-wireless-what-you-need-to-know-about-5g-and-wi-fi-6/#1dab78b842ae

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