5G and Wi-Fi 6 are complementary technologies
Based on the industry vertical enterprises environment, operation, devices, and applications, both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are competitive when it comes to addressing specific requirements. WiFi will be the preferred technology for indoor requirements along with non-critical applications and unlicensed spectrum to use, while 5G cellular network is for outdoor coverage, mission-critical applications, highly secured environments, and anticipating several QoS features.
However, there is overlap in some areas, especially when different vertical enterprises are primarily considering bandwidth for a large event, hospitality or stadium, and in some cases, smart city projects or large campuses may end up considering both technologies.
However, we must remember that both technologies are continuing to evolve, and in some cases, both may be used simultaneously. Wi-Fi may be used for connected cars in vehicle applications and 5G cellular network for connecting the car itself.
As enterprises embrace 5G & Wi-Fi 6 to meet their varying needs, they will leverage both these technologies based on need and purpose; and there arises the question of interoperability. Both these complementary technologies will see a need to seamlessly offer an ability to switch back and forth between them to minimize disruptions that we generally experience in today’s world. These disruptions will get resolved with 5G & Wi-Fi 6.
The 5G specification offers a sophisticated way to support interoperability with the Wi-Fi network to support and enable enterprises to run and manage them with minimal complexity. Compared to traditional Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6 will be more transparent to the 5G network, with an ability to share a lot more information like, coverage, data rates, latency, and load amongst other parameters, to enable intelligent decision-making to realize a truly integrated network. They are also self-governing and self-managed. Therefore, there is no need for manual intervention to tap the value of these technologies to the benefit of enterprises.
When it comes to interoperability and the ability to seamlessly switch from one to another, Wi-Fi 6 features will allow discovery and authentication for SIM-enabled devices. WiFi devices will hand off to the cellular network to natively support Wi-Fi Radio access per 3GPP 5G architecture specification. This is just the beginning and specifications will evolve over time.
Conclusion: What do enterprises prefer?
From a technology evolution standpoint, both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 have progressed much more compared to their previous generation’s offerings, as both claims to have high data rates, device density, etc. Although both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 complement each other’s strengths, it is the environment, sensitivity of the application, and use cases of the enterprise that will decide which will be the better fit. The continuous advancement of industry-specialized applications, robotics, AR/VR solutions, AGVs, autonomous vehicles, and many other cutting-edge applications and data from various devices will determine the need for 5G or Wi-Fi 6.