As Wi-Fi 6 and 5G become more widely implemented, the potential benefits they offer for a variety of industries are becoming clearer. Each technology has different use cases but they tend to play well together, delivering the flexibility and seamlessness that users and organizations expect.
5G is a great fit for outdoor applications, such as when colleges need to cover large areas of their campuses. It can be simpler and more cost-effective than trying to supplement coverage with Wi-Fi. 5G will also advance smart city applications, enabling governments to deliver services remotely, such as reading smart water meters. It also can help ensure reliable connections to services including police and emergency response.
Wi-Fi 6 is primarily for use indoors and in large spaces, such as stadiums, where existing cell towers can’t handle the demand. Stadiums also demonstrate the way that Wi-Fi 6 and 5G can work together. A stadium could augment its Wi-Fi 6 installation with 5G as the number of base stations increases. Both are designed for high speed, low latency and high capacity, which makes them align effectively.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 Support New Business Drivers
After the pandemic, many organizations will change the way they manage their employees. For one, they’ll turn more to hybrid work while deprioritizing large office spaces. Many workplaces will have more communal spaces, supporting the face-to-face collaboration that will continue to bring people into the office. In these cases, Wi-Fi 6 will provide easier connectivity and the flexibility to move around. In some work settings, 5G will be a valuable supplement, especially for big campuses where outdoor connectivity is important.
The limitations we face today are simply related to the number of towers available for 5G. They’re still not everywhere — rural areas, in particular, haven’t seen as much progress — but they’re expanding quickly. In Cincinnati, where I live, the poles are up, waiting for the infrastructure to arrive. The situation continues to change rapidly, and it’s just a matter of time before we can start taking advantage of 5G fully.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E Will Redefine Networking
From an IT perspective, it’s time to make the move, especially for Wi-Fi 6. Vendors are discontinuing their older products, and lifetimes are up on many of them. One factor to be aware of is the recent announcement of Wi-Fi 6E, which is still in development but promises to be even more of a game changer than Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6E will open up hundreds of channels, versus the 24 available now, increasing throughput tremendously. This will essentially take a two-lane country road and make it a four-lane highway. Wi-Fi 6E will not, however, be backward-compatible, as most Wi-Fi generations have been. Some vendors are considering chipsets that will work with both old and new access points, but we’ll still have to navigate the power requirements associated with those APs.
Clearly, this is a space that continues to take shape, but there are huge opportunities ahead — and important connections to business objectives — that organizations should plan to take advantage of.