5G vs WiFi6 - Tech | 5G, SDN/NFV & Edge Compute


Sunday, May 5, 2019

5G vs WiFi6

5G is getting a lot of coverage these days - thanks to all the telecom service providers, networking equipment vendors, standard bodies and open source communities that are rallying behind the next generation mobile wireless technology. Cisco appears to be the lone wolf touting the WiFi6 horn, which is the next generation WiFi technology. Vendors like Cisco are trying to establish synergies between 5G and WiFi6, so that, both the technologies can continue to make the access to Internet, simplified for all of us. However, many people still think that these two are competitive technologies. Recently, I did some research about whether WiFi will get killed by 5G? And, I concluded that WiFi and 5G will co-exist for the years to come. This article will focus on highlighting the similarities and differences between 5G and WiFi6.

WhatNext Generation Mobile Wireless Technology (following 4G)Next Generation WiFi technology (after WiFi5). it is also called as IEEE 802.11ax.
When5G was commercially launched in Q4'18WiFi6 is going to get launched in 2019. Access points and Routers supporting WiFi6 are already available in the market. However, IEEE will ratify WiF6 standards in late 2019.
Who3GPP standardizes 5G. 5G is targetted at residential customers and enterprises (for ex., industries, communities, government agencies etc.,)IEEE standardizes WiFi6. WiFi6 is targetted at residential customers and enterprises (for ex., industries and communities)
WhySupports higher speeds, lower latency and increased device density, when compared to 4GSupports more speed, lower latency and increased device density, when compared to WiFi5
Where5G is getting deployed in several parts of the world. Countries such as USA and South Korea are leading the 5G race.No active deployments yet. Cisco launched a suite of WiFi6 enabled access points, recently in Apr'19.
Frequencies5G supports a wide range of spectrums from low bands below 1 GHz, to mid bands from 1 GHz to 6 GHz, to high bands 24 / 30 GHz to 300 GHz (also, known as millimeter-wave).WiFi6 Supports both 2.4 GHz and 5GHz
Use CasesSupports use cases such as Autonomous Cars, AR/VR and IOTWiFi6 supports use cases such as Enterprise, Residential and IOT services. Early adopters of WiFi6 will include businesses that need to deliver immersive experiences and performance in high-density environments such as hospitals, schools, venues, and retail stores.
SpeedSupports up to 1Gbps speed (per device connecting to the 5G network)WiFi6 supports up to 9.6Gbps speed (shared by the devices connecting to the WiFi router)
How does it achieve speed?5G achieves speed through an enhanced radio (5G NR / 5G-Nextgen Radio), that supports Massive MIMO technology. Radios with Massive MIMO have few tens to several hundreds of antennas are used for propagating radio signals. In addition, 5G supports beam forming, which enables the radio device to send signals concentrated on one direction, avoiding signal loss and interferences.Achieves speed, by supporting MU-MIMO & OFDMA. MU-MMO stands for Multi-user, Multiple input, Multiple output. It allows routers to communicate with multiple devices at a given time. Wi-Fi 6 allows the router to communicate simultaneously with up to eight devices.
OFDMA stands for “Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access,” which allows a single transmission to deliver data to multiple devices at once.
Security5G provides native support for EAP, which is an authentication protocol that allows pluggable authentication methods. In addition, 5G prevents spoofing attacks by supporting a featuere called "Home Control" (When a device is roaming, the home network verifies if the device is actually present in the serving network, before allowing the user to roam in the visited network)WiFi6 makes the support for WPA3 mandatory. WPA3 makes it harder for hackers to get access to your data.
Battery LifeSaves Battery Life (5G promises to lower the energy consumption to 10% of current consumption)Saves Battery Life (using Target Wake Time function, that lets the router to check with WiFi devices at scheduled times, allowing devices to go to sleep mode and save battery life)

Where would 5G compete with WiFi6?

5G would compete with WiFi6 in some of the Enterprise use-cases. A few examples are given below:
  • Enterprises can buy a 5G small cell device (small cell tower) and deploy it in-house to offer 5G coverage to its employees, slowly replacing WiFi with 5G. Service providers can themselves deploy 5G in Enterprises for cell densification and Enterprises can reuse that infrastructure to avail Private Wireless network services. Service Providers can carve out a 5G network slice for the Enterprise related services. 
  • Today, WiFi networks are deployed and managed separately by the IT administrators in Enterprises. Reusing 5G infrastructure, instead of corporate WiFi would reduce the administrative overhead for the Enterprises. 
  • Because of the evolution of the WiFi standards, Enterprises have to continuously upgrade their WiFi gear, once every 3 - 5 years. With 5G, that overhead can be outsourced to the Service Providers. Service Providers will take care of upgrading their wireless infrastructure periodically. 
There will be some competition between WiFi6 and 5G in some IOT use cases too.

Where would 5G complement WiFi6?

5G can complement WiFi6, in some use cases. A few examples are given below:
  • In Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) use cases, the customer premise equipment (CPE) can connect to the 5G network for Internet connectivity and can locally offer connectivity services through WiFi6. 
  • 5G can complement WiFi6 in residential Fixed Wireless use cases (such as the 5G Home service launched by Verizon, recently). 5G would eliminate the need for service providers to dig the lawns of their customers to provide broadband services. With 5G, service providers can reduce the cost of their dispatch operations and enable customers to activate their Internet connectivity services through self-serve mechanisms. 
  • Even in Enterprises, WiFi has a higher penetration through laptops and mobile devices supporting WiFi. While it is easier to eliminate WiFi from mobile devices and transition them completely to 5G, it is not going to be easy to get rid of WiFi from laptops. Moreover, rolling out WiFi6 is going to be lot cheaper than rolling out a 5G network in an Enterprise. It would  also take lesser time for the Enterprises to rollout WiFi6 than 5G. So, WiFi6 would complement 5G in select Enterprise use cases.
The battle between 5G and WiFi6 is not a battle for existence or survival - but, it is going to be a battle to grab more deployment foot print. We'll have to wait and watch to find out who grabs the most market share. 

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