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5G and Wi-Fi 6 Networks are Converging, and It’s a Big Deal!June 30, 2020
For years, the evolution of wireless standards has sparked debates over whether or not the latest and greatest cellular networks will replace the need for Wi-Fi or vice versa. Of course, we all know that the replacement hasn’t occurred, and advances in both cellular and Wi-Fi have been constant and substantial over the years. Most recently, the headlines in trade publications have shouted, 5G vs. Wi-Fi 6, Who Will Win? Our money is on (and the popular opinion) is neither.
The convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks is the future and essential to answering the consumer’s demand for The Connected Life Experience™.
The Convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 is Perfect Timing
To truly understand why we believe that a partnership will form with 5G and Wi-Fi 6 rather than an either-or, let’s look at how the level of connectivity expectations has developed and changed over the last 40 years. The evolution of mobile and Wi-Fi standards from the first-generation networks to where we are today provide great insight as we prepare for a global 5G and Wi-Fi 6 rollout.
The 80’s were all about portable experiences—the first cellular phones, Sony Walkman®, floppy disks, and Nintendo bringing the arcade experience to homes.
- Pre-Wi-Fi, the first commercial cellular phone call was successfully completed in 1983 when a call initiated from the parking lot of Soldier Field in Chicago was picked up in Germany, by Alexander Graham Bell’s great-grandson. What a thrill that must have been!
- The world’s first handheld phone, Motorola’s DynaTac, weighed two pounds and was 13 inches long. Despite its size, by 1990, the first cellular network (1G) had obtained 20 million global subscribers.
The 90’s brought a transformation in communication and information—cell phones became more common, texting and email were used by more than just businesses, and we were introduced to a new form of content via the World Wide Web.
- Mobile networks offered more than just voice calls; SMS messages enabled a new form of communication later known as “texting.” By 2000, mobile phone users were texting about 35 times per month, but in just two years that number soared to 250 billion messages sent worldwide in a single year.
- In 1997, Wi-Fi was introduced by the IEEE 802.11, and by 1999, the first-generation Wi-Fi standards were released with routers, which introduced Wi-Fi home use. Many employees could perform most any task they could in their cubicle and stay in touch with coworkers from their home at any hour of the day.
The VIP of the 2000’s was Wi-Fi. to connect at any time from wherever we happened to be—coffee shops, bookstores, hotels, airports—not just at home or in the office.
- In 2001, 3G enabled data to be accessed anywhere in the world. Using our mobile phones abroad with international roaming services became a real possibility for the first time.
- In 2002, Cable TV providers started offering Wi-Fi along with standard cable connectivity.
- By 2003, 6000 hotels across America began offering Wi-Fi to guests.
- In 2003, Wi-Fi 3 (802.11g) expanded the range of the 2.4GHz band bumping speeds high enough (54Mbps) to support music streaming.
- The iPhone was released in 2007, and we began carrying our entire digital world in our pockets.
- The Internet of Things was introduced this decade, and the number of connected devices per person was over one (1.83) for the first time in history.
In the 2010’s, technology simplified our lives through apps, streaming, and smart technology.
- Consumers experienced the first modern virtual assistant (Siri).
- In 2012 the Wi-Fi Alliance’s “Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint” program (Hotspot 2.0) utilized IEEE 802.11u to streamline network access for Passpoint devices, allowing cellular service providers to offload data traffic seamlessly and securely to Wi-Fi networks. Passpoint mobile devices automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks powered by Passpoint-certified access points, a significant milestone for the Wi-Fi industry, delivering a true broadband experience that users want.
- In November 2013, the first Passpoint demonstration and Wi-Fi live roaming experience to demonstrate the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s Next Generation Hotspot initiative took place at the Wi-Fi Global Congress in Beijing. A significant milestone, demonstrating a seamless integration between cellular data networks and Wi-Fi access points.
- In 2013, high-quality streaming became a reality along with faster mobile web access (up to 1 Gbps for stationary users). Netflix subscriptions grew from 22 million in 2011 to nearly 150 million in 2019 due to the popularity of video streaming.
- Sales of personal and smart home IoT devices skyrocketed, including the AppleWatch (sparking a hot trend in wearable IoT) and Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, along with the hands-free speaker Echo.
Demand is for instant and connected. No matter where you go, you are always online. The convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi technologies will power advances in countless ways, including telemedicine, automation, and transportation.
- 5G and Wi-Fi 6 both promise to deliver higher speeds, lower latency, and the ability to connect more devices reliably.
- The FCC voted to expand Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz band. As a result, the Wi-Fi Alliance designated the name Wi-Fi 6E to identify Wi-Fi 6 devices that can operate in the 6 GHz band.
- In May 2020, the Wireless Broadband Alliance introduced OpenRoaming™ as a framework to connect billions of users and things to millions of Wi-Fi networks globally. Devices connect automatically and securely on to the WBA OpenRoaming™ network, bridging the gap between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
- Consumers are hungry for these technologies like never before in a time where our need for speed directly correlates to our obsession with the IoT internet-enabled devices that make our lives easier and allow us to perform our jobs more precisely.
Cisco did a great job outlining the essential things to know about Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. In short:
- Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are built from the same foundation and will co-exist to support different use cases.
- Wi-Fi 6 will continue to be the internet access choice for indoor networks.
- 5G will be the designated internet access choice for outdoor networks.
- Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 allow you to connect to more devices reliably via wireless.
5G aims to speed up mobile data communication by up to three times compared to 4G/LTE. Along with increased speed, 5G promises a substantial reduction in network latency—by a factor of 60 to 120—and can handle 20 times more conversations than 4G, allowing you to deploy many more internet-connected wireless devices in the same space without overwhelming the network.
Wi-Fi 6 boasts four times better wireless performance in dense or congested areas, 40% higher peak data rates, and four times better network efficiency compared to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). Add to that, Wi-Fi 6E devices (to be released starting in 2021) will take advantage of the 6 GHz band and result in even higher performance, lower latency, and faster data—it is primed to take on the growing adoption of IoT. Wi-Fi 6 offers reliable faster speeds and more capacity for multi-device connectivity in student and multi-family communities, hotels and casinos, public transportation, and other venues where bandwidth is a factor!
By 2023, there will be 13.4 networked devices per person in North America, an increase from 8 per person in 2017. According to research, demand for seamless connectivity directly correlates to the rise in devices per person and their reliance on Wi-Fi. As consumers, we want to stay connected to our favorite form of IoT without interruption, no matter where we are, at home or on the road.
Our future depends on internet connectivity as well. To successfully implement and integrate the advanced technologies of tomorrow like telemedicine, robotic surgical procedures, advanced factory automation, autonomous trains and airplanes, and self-driving cars, we need an infrastructure of both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G wireless networks working together.
For more on how far we’ve come and what the future holds, check out our latest Infographic, The Evolution of Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks.
By Denise Chamberlin
Freelance Technology Writer
We’re Here for It!
As a leader in advanced network solutions, Single Digits is ready to help property owners take advantage of the emerging capabilities with the new Wi-Fi 6 and 5G standards along with Wi-Fi 6E devices. As both technologies begin to become widespread, now is the time to consider the bright future ahead of us, when Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will be available to complement each other. The technology allows for optimizing how a property-based network is used for enabling things like increased speed and performance, along with more advanced access control and security.
Single Digits is ready to satisfy the growing demand for always-on, lightning-fast Internet connections that goes everywhere. We have the technologies to facilitate the transition of internet connectivity between inside and outside networks by leveraging our recently acquired roaming and offload capabilities from BSG Wireless. Learn more about seamless authentication through our ConnectionAssist solution in our blog post: It’s Time to Rally Behind Passpoint®.
Your residents expect The Connected Life Experience—we deliver that.