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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The fake battle: 5G vs Wi-Fi

[Reposted from my LinkedIn & slightly extended. See the post here for a full comment thread]

I'm bored of the fake battle being hyped up between #WiFi and #5G, especially for enterprise connectivity in-building.

Let's be absolutely clear. Essentially *every* building, whether residential, enterprise office, public venue or industrial, will need good WiFi coverage, increasingly based on #WiFi6.

Most laptops, TVs, screens, voice assistants, tablets, consumer appliances & other non-smartphone devices will be WiFi-only. Only a handful will have cellular radios too - the economics & manufacturing/distribution complexities don't work for including 5G as a default in most electronic products.

Almost every building will *also* need decent indoor public 4G/5G broadband coverage, especially for employees' and visitors' phones. In most cases this will need to cover all major MNOs' networks, as well as public safety systems such as critical-communications LTE. (
Wi-Fi Calling doesn't work ubiquitously on all phones / mobile networks on enterprise Wi-Fi, so there will always need to be a cellular network for reliable basic telephony).

*Some* buildings will also need indoor private 5G for ultra low-latency machines or other connected devices. For industrial sites this will mostly be isolated local networks. For others it may be delivered by MNOs via local coverage or network-slicing, or by some form of neutral-host wholesale model.

The main competition for indoor 5G is actually indoor 4G, not WiFi for which there is only a narrow overlap in use cases. WiFi will almost always be needed as well as cellular, with very rare examples where it's absent - for instance outdoors on campus sites.

Also, future visitor access to WiFi may be made much easier with #OpenRoaming, which can use multiple affiliation-based credentials, not just SIM or passwords. That will change the usability barriers for Wi-Fi, for instance if you can connect via a loyalty app, rather than needing to visit a web-page and enter credentials.

Bottom line: it's not a battle. Wi-Fi6 and 5G will be needed for different purposes. They probably won't be integrated much either, as they'll have different financial models, different usage models (and locations) and deployment/upgrade timelines. Think divergence, not convergence - although some elements such as planning tools and fibre backhaul to the cells/APs will likely be combined.

If you’d like more details on this topic & my deeper analysis on the future of wireless, please contact me via information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com. I offer advisory services to governments, operators, vendors, enterprises & investors.

See also LinkedIn post with long comment thread via this link: here