MEF hosted an update from the Wireless Broadband Alliance – the creators of  WiFi – to understand the future of WiFi and how it will interface with cellular 5G services. To guide us through the future of mobile data services Dario Betti was joined by the CEO of the WBA, Tiago Rodrigues, and by Stein Hansen, the CEO of OpenSky Consulting.

First the meeting started with a presentation on the potential of WiFi6. The world of mobility already sees users jumping from cellular to unlicensed spectrum freely, and it is positive to see that 5G will find a similar development in WiFi6. The new WiFi (previously referred to as 802.11ax) will bring efficiency in:

  • 4 time more throughput per user

  • A theoretical peak of 9.6 Gbps

  • Lower latency

  • Higher number of devices supported

  • Extended batter performance in devices

Tiago pointed out how there is now more spectrum available for WiFI “There is a global trend to allocate more spectrum to WiFi in the 6GHz Band for unlicensed technologies. Already the USA and the UK have made spectrum available here”.

Tiago thinks that the two technologies are very complementary: 5G will not replace WiFi, and WiFi will not replace 5G. Instead they will work together. For mobility 5G and LTE have an advantage: if you want to cover a motorway use cellular. Instead in very dense indoor environment such a building, WiFi is more economic and reliable”

5G will not replace WiFi, and WiFi will not replace 5G. Instead they will work together. For mobility 5G and LTE have an advantage: if you want to cover a motorway use cellular. Instead in very dense indoor environment such a building, WiFi is more economic and reliable”

What are the use cases for these services? Industry 4.0 is one of the main applications: a highly connected manufacturing site will be using the low latency for real time control and high precision production. WiFi6 has been tested in aerospace metal productions and Tiago described how low latency allowed to the quality connectivity required in this type of manufacturing, IoT control and VR.

Stein Hansen has a large experience from the mobile operator industry Having seen many operators’ 5G roll out strategies he confirms that many of them bets on industrial use cases as leading monetisation opportunity for 5G.

Stein says there might be some overlap for 5G and WiFi in those use cases. A main challenge is that many operators do not know very well how to operate with industrial use cases. Operators might have to develop a system integrator mindset: offering connectivity as part of a wider integration solution equally relying on cellular and unlicensed solutions.

For Stein the main use cases for mobile operators in 5G so far are consumer oriented: higher data speed/capacity for smartphone data, and fixed wireless replacement or extension. Again, while the complementary nature of WiFi and cellular is not going to be massively challenged, the long-term promise of massive IoT and low latency applications is probably not there yet.

For consumers, WiFi is also introducing a better ‘roaming experience’ supported by an Open Roaming ecosystem. Identity and WiFi Providers are working together to make WiFi services easier and more secure for the user.

One of the critical questions for connectivity is how to manage identity of users in the open networks. Users will be able to choose their preferred credentials from multiple ID (e.g. mobile operator, a Google or a Facebook account). The companies might also want to steer traffic across difference networks. We need automation to simply integrate existing WiFi spots to operators’ networks. According to Stein, OpenRoaming must not replicate the complexity of managing cellular roaming.

WiFi6 equipment is ready in the high range for multiple manufactures for enterprises. Residential WiFi is dependent largely by the choice of fixed telecom vendors, many of the, are already planning an upgrade of their customer experiences. According to GSMA, 5G has been launched by 106 operators worldwide, with GSMA forecasting 1.2 billion users by 2025.

Please join the full debate including more on security, identity and the potential applications. by checking the webinar video.

Dario Betti

MEF CEO

  

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