What does 5G mean for WiFi?

The hype around 5G networks has landed. And understandably so. A number of global carriers are testing their network and this year, we are expecting to see the launch of a number of 5G enabled smartphones.

What does 5G mean for WiFi?

Not only this, but 5G was a prominent theme at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. 5G announcements included Samsung’s prototype 5G smartphone, Intel’s SoC, Verizon’s 5G showcase with Disney, Sprint 5G and IoT combination, Qualcomm’s promises on the value of 5G, and even Cisco’s visions of 6G.

 

What can we expect from 5G?

5G is expected to have much higher speeds and capacity, and much lower latency, than 4G.

Because 5G can send and receive signals pretty much instantaneously, it is expected that 5G will offer mobile internet speeds of more than 10 Gbps. That is approximately one hundred times faster than 4G.

The latency will be less than a millisecond with 5G. Which means, theoretically, you could download a feature-length movie in HD in less than a few seconds.

In addition to faster download speeds, 5G is also expected to facilitate the implementation and adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). Which in turn could have implications for industries like manufacturing that increasingly rely on the IoT for digitally connecting their processes and factories.

Sounds great, right?

So with 5G supposedly just around the corner – what does this mean for WiFi?  

Well, right now, and I imagine in the near future, not much.

Let me tell you why.

 

Here’s why 5G won’t kill WiFi

5G devices aren’t prevalent in the market yet

Yes, Samsung have showcased their prototype – note the word prototype – and other leading telecoms brands are talking about the huge potential of 5G, but we’re just not quite there yet. The idea that network operators will have their 5G networks up and running this year seems a little ambitious.

WiFi enabled devices

There are billions of existing and forthcoming WiFi-only devices on the market such as tablets, entertainment systems, and computer peripherals. They’re not going to disappear anytime soon.

WiFi-specific functions aren’t compatible with cellular networks

5G doesn’t allow access to private servers, appliances or other LAN devices, unless they are cloud-connected via the internet. For networks that have an infrastructure like this, WiFi is, and will continue to remain the best option.

The WiFi market is growing at a spectacular rate

A report by MarketsandMarkets estimates the global WiFi market will be worth $33.6 billion by 2020. WiFi traffic, from both mobile and WiFi-only devices, will account for more than 50 percent of total IP traffic by that time.

Another report by MarketsandMarkets, also estimates that the global managed WiFi solutions market is expected to grow from $3.07b in 2017 to a staggering $6.11b by 2022, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.8 percent during the forecast period.

WiFi is simply too prevalent and successful, especially within corporate environments

Organizations with a corporate wireless LAN can monitor and secure their network and user access to ensure data security. 5G connected devices, however, cannot offer this level of scrutiny.

 

The introduction of 5G will have little impact on WiFi – the two will likely coexist, as 4G and WiFi do now. This is a thought shared by Anand Oswal, Cisco Senior Vice President – Engineering, who in a recent post states that both WiFi and 5G will play a large part in changing networking in 2019.

Although there is overlap, the use cases for WiFi and 5G remain independent – it is even likely that WiFi will play a key role in many 5G developments.

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