Will 5G soon make company WiFi redundant?
WiFi or 5G: who will win?
The enormous growth in data and devices keeps pushing many mobile networks as well as WLAN networks to the limit of their performance. Mobile operators want to solve this problem with more 4G and soon also 5G. The WiFi supporters, on the other hand, rely on Wi-Fi 5 – and recently also on Wi-Fi 6 alias 11ax. Who’s going to run?
Fueled by the increasing number of things to be networked in the course of the Internet of Things (IoT), the question of the type of networking is becoming increasingly important. Both mobile radio and wireless LAN have their specific strengths and fields of application. With the arrival of 5G , three new questions now arise:
- 1. Should companies set up their own 5G network in their own campus?
- 2. Can ITC dealers and integrators get involved in 5G?
- 3. Will 5G make corporate WiFi redundant soon?
1. Should companies build their own 5G network?
While the future 5G network will not appeal to everyone, some companies are building their own 5G infrastructure. Because especially in industry, the fifth generation of mobile communications plays a not insignificant role, for example in production facilities or test tracks. “The opportunities for regional 5G frequencies are being created by the Federal Network Agency and are very likely to be used,” says Thomas Groß, Executive Director Advanced Solutions at Ingram Micro . Ultimately, limiting factors such as the amount of investment required, official requirements for the granting of licenses or the resulting security scenarios would decide what is actually implemented.
So the mere “question of radio technology with regard to the overall architecture is downstream”, says Jürgen Hahnrath, Head of IoE Solutions Germany at Cisco. The focus of network planning would be security, automation, efficiency and costs. The last mile, i.e. how which devices are connected, is only a section. “In general, also with regard to Wi-Fi 6, we expect 5G to be a complement in private networks, meaning that most clients and a large part of the traffic will continue to use WLANwill run, ”says the Cisco manager. Today, there are already “numerous business cases for 5G in sight, from self-driving cars to large IoT projects and augmented reality to real-time gaming. In the future, further applications are likely to be discovered, so that in addition to the automotive industry, game manufacturers or operators of geographically distributed IoT projects, other industries can also benefit from 5G applications, ”Hahnrath explains.
In the first step, 5G is more about faster, mobile broadband connections. Here, 5G could bring lower costs with a corresponding router, for example for locations without fiber optics or as a backup connection for existing data connections. “This will benefit especially mobile operators with 5G licenses. But many cable providers also have networks that support 5G. This enables them to add appropriate functions to their own offers. ”
But “whether companies should set up their own 5G network also depends on the offers of the mobile phone and data network providers, but also on the application. It can be expected that network providers will develop attractive solutions for companies, so that the effort to set up and operate their own 5G network is likely to be too high in most cases. In exceptional cases and in an industrial environment, this may be necessary for security reasons or for faster and better availability, ”predicts the manager.
Manufacturer Ruckus is also “convinced that company networks based on LTE – and later 5G technology, offer enormous potential for handling a wide range of business and company-critical applications,” said Sascha Hirschoff, Senior Manager Systems Engineering, EMEA-CEE Jerk. “This affects sectors such as the port and airport industry, the hospitality industry, healthcare and warehousing, as well as manufacturing and the energy sector. In addition, companies across industries are faced with the problem of poor indoor cellular coverage ”.
However, thanks to 5G, companies will soon be able to overcome these “challenges. Using a shared or locally licensed spectrum provided for this purpose at nominal frequency costs, they will be able to build their own 3GPP based networks. In Germany, for example, the Federal Network Agency announced that from 2019 companies can apply for frequencies in the 3.7 to 3.8 GHz band for use in industrial applications. In this case, it was an alliance of German industrial and production companies that urged the Federal Network Agency to use this spectrum. This shows what added value they see in using 3GPP technology in a special spectrum to support their business processes, ”explains Ruckus expert Hirschoff. Special 5G networks for companies seem to be coming really soon. This leads to the second question:
2. Can ITC dealers and integrators get involved in 5G?
“Security allows retailers and integrators to get involved in 5G or other radio networks,” says Groß. But of course it wasn’t enough with a radio network. “Data sources and data targets are needed from or to which the data records have to be transferred. To plan, to advise and to implement this becomes more and more the task of integrators ”.
But how should ITC retailers get going with 5G in concrete terms? According to Hahnrath, technologies such as network slicing and edge computing offer new opportunities for high-quality services with lower latency times, lower transmission costs and greater reliability. ICT dealers and integrators could also use these technologies to develop solutions for service providers or other companies.
3. Will 5G make corporate WiFi redundant soon?
Groß assumes “coexistence rather than an either-or scenario. Companies that have already digitized and only get their apps and services from the cloud , theoretically no longer need their own company WiFi. It is more a question of security, how the data within the cloud is protected in the best possible way. How it will be accessed, whether via company WiFi or 5G, will then be a question of costs at the end of the day. ”
Hahnrath becomes even clearer: “5G will not replace the company’s WLAN, but complement it. The new technology may never achieve the same cost efficiency or breadth of device support. In addition, with version 802.11ax, WLAN will adopt many of the latest innovations in radio technology in order to offer reliable, dense and high-throughput connectivity ”. In any case, “both approaches would be operated in parallel anyway, since they each have different strengths and weaknesses. Mobile services like 5G are very effective in terms of broad coverage, seamless authentication and roaming. Therefore, they are ideally suited for the widespread use of applications, for example on smartphones or in vehicles, ”Hahnrath continues.
Above all, the Cisco manager sees enormous cost differences between WLAN and mobile communications: “Today there are five times more WLAN devices than 4G devices. This is largely due to the fact that a typical WLAN client only costs 5 percent of a fully equipped LTE client. WLAN will dominate above all for larger devices at work or at home – such as notebooks or TV monitors – as well as for M2M devices ”.
Axel Simon, Chief Technologist at HPE Aruba, notes that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are technically very similar. This means that both technologies are generally suitable for the current requirements for mobile networks. However, modern access points offer “the connection of all end devices by providing WiFi 6, Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee and other radio protocols. This diversity will not exist at 5G in the long term, ”emphasizes Simon. “I still don’t believe in in-house mobile radio coverage – LTE has not yet kept this promise.”
Exaggerated perception of 5G
Simon also notes that “There is currently an excessive perception of the possibilities of 5G in Germany. However, 3G and 4G have already announced that WLAN will become superfluous and this promise has not been kept. Both politicians and providers are asked to reason realistically and not to start a flash in the pan. In the end, it is very likely that it will be similar to the past: Mobile communications will play a major role outdoors, whereas WLAN will expand its role both in-house and in high-traffic environments – since it is not just about connectivity, but also depends on the location-based services ”.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 will complement each other
But the most important question is: “Who retains data sovereignty in order to design services for the user? Due to the high technical similarity of 5G and WiFi 6, the addition of both technologies will be the key for the user – not an excessive polemic of politics, in the hope that the bandwidth issue in Germany can be solved by third parties in the area, ”continues Simon out.
Ralf Koenzen, founder and managing director of Lancom and head of business unit Networks & Cybersecurity at Rohde & Schwarz, sees 5G and WLAN very clearly in different areas: “There are applications in which there is no alternative to using the mobile network . I’m thinking of really mobile scenarios that take place regardless of location. Autonomous driving is one of these examples, as is smart farming. Smart cities based on 5G are also very conceivable. In addition, there is use in areas where there is no wired high-speed Internet. Here 5G has potential as a full gigabit internet access. This also counts as a backup connection for business-critical processes. “
The case is completely different with “wireless applications and offers that are to be realized in a spatially clearly defined area, for example within (office) buildings, in schools and universities, in stadiums, factories or logistics centers, in clinics, the hotel and catering and the education sector or simply at home. All of these scenarios can be realized much more economically on the basis of another stationary wireless technology that has been tried and tested for many years: the wireless LAN, ”says Koenzen.
The Lancom founder does not have to think long about the reasons: “In contrast to mobile networks, WLAN infrastructures can be set up by anyone in a very short time and operated without an intermediary provider. This has great economic advantages. So there are no significant costs for the ongoing operation of a WLAN, no expensive licenses or contracts per client. “Especially against the background of the explosion of things to be networked with the Internet of Things, this is an important argument:” In addition, there is Set up user companies with their own wireless infrastructure independently and have their networks completely under control. It is invaluable wherever business-critical applications are wirelessly networked or highly sensitive data is transmitted, “
In the end, Koenzen sees a “duality of the networks: On the way to the gigabit society postulated by the politicians, we absolutely need a coexistence of mobile and stationary radio technologies. Both mobile radio and wireless LAN have their own specific strengths and fields of application that the other technology cannot replace. This will not change with the expansion of the 5G infrastructure. ”
Hirschoff also “does not assume that 5G will make company WiFi unnecessary. To do this, 5G would have to be installed in every networked device in the business premises, such as laptops , printers and scanners. Thats expensive. In addition, the connectivity should be free because it would compete with WiFi. The operators would not make any money from this. In addition, there would have to be 5G coverage throughout the interior, which cannot be achieved with an outdoor network. ”
Wi-Fi is de facto a technology standard for WLAN. Corporate IT departments know how to use Wi-Fi, and “Providers have optimized their products and features for these IT users. There is no reason for companies to replace something that works. Nevertheless, we believe that both LTE and 5G will play an important role in the company. 5G should be understood as an era in which multiple wireless technologies coexist and complement each other. Each technology should address the use cases for which it is best suited. This connectivity structure characterizes the true 5G era, ”summarizes Hirschoff.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 are equally critically nedded technologies.They provide increased capacity, lower latency, and higher speeds over their previous legacy technologies. But 5G networks will provide 50x more speed, 10x less latency, and 1,000x more capacity than 4G/LTE and also provide better mobility than that of WIFI.