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Sunday, July 24, 2022

New Report on Enterprise Wi-Fi: No, 5G is not enough

(Initially posted on LinkedIn, here. Probably best to use LI for comments & discussion)

Published this week: my full STL Partners report on Enterprise Wi-Fi. Click here to get the full summary & extract.

Key takeout: Telcos, MNOs & other service providers need to take Wi-Fi6 , 6E & (soon) 7 much more seriously. So do policymakers.

5G is not enough for solving enterprises' connectivity problems on its own. It has important roles, especially in Private 5G guise, but cannot replace Wi-Fi in the majority of situations. They will coexist.

Wi-Fi will remain central to most businesses' on-site connectivity needs, especially indoors, for employees, guests and IoT systems.

Telcos should support Wi-Fi more fully. They need a full toolkit to drive relevance in enterprise, not just a 5G hammer & pretend everything is a nail. CIOs and network purchasers know what they want - and it's not 5G hype or slice-wash.

Newer versions of Wi-Fi solve many of the oft-cited challenges of legacy systems, and are often a better fit with existing IT and networks (and staff skills) than 5G, whether private or public. 

Deterministic latency, greater reliability and higher density of devices make 6/6E/7 more suitable for many demanding industrial and cloud-centric applications, especially in countries where 6GHz spectrum is available. Like 5G it's not a universal solution, but has far greater potential than some mobile industry zealots seem to think.

Some recommendations:

- Study the roadmaps for Wi-Fi versions & enhancements carefully. There's a lot going on over the next couple of years.
- CSP executives should ensure that 5G "purists" do not control efforts on technology strategy, regulatory engagement, standards or marketing.
- Instead, push a vision of "network diversity", not an unrealistic monoculture. (Read my recent skeptical post on slicing, too)
- Don't compare old versions of Wi-Fi with future versions of 5G. It is more reasonable to compare Wi-Fi 6 performance with 5G Release 15, or future Wi-Fi 7 with Rel17 (and note: it will arrive much earlier)
- 5G & Wi-Fi will sometimes be converged... and sometimes kept separate (diverged). Depends on the context, applications & multiple other factors. Don't overemphasise convergence anchored in 3GPP cores.
- Consider new service opportunities from OpenRoaming, motion-sensing and mesh enhancements.
- The Wi-Fi industry itself is getting better at addressing specific vertical sectors, but still needs more focus and communication on individual industries
- There should be far more "Wi-Fi for Vertical X, Y, Z" associations, events and articles.
- Downplay clunky & privacy-invasive Wi-Fi "monetisation" platforms for venues and transport networks.
- Policymakers & regulators should look at "Advanced Connectivity" as a whole, not focus solely on 5G. Issue 6GHz spectrum for unlicenced use, ideally the whole band
- Support Wi-Fi for local licensed spectrum bands (maybe WiFi8). Look at 60GHz opportunities.
- Insist Wi-Fi included as an IMT2030 / 6G candidate.

See link for report extract & Exec Summary

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