- It’s WiFi v. 5G time: expect to see the arguments trotted out
- The WiFi camp says it has new, more capable technology in WiFi 6
- The cellular camp says its poised to win indoors
You may have noticed that the Wi-Fi v. cellular debate is flaring up again as it does at the turn of every cellular iteration. Mobile telcos are painfully aware that WiFi handles most (some estimates put it at 80% or more) of mobile handset-originated data traffic. Indeed for many mobile telcos, home and hotspot WiFi was a godsend back in the day, enabling them (and their users) to ‘offload’ data from the cellular network to keep mobile Internet applications humming. Without it... well who knows what would have happened?
So when LTE came along it was widely trumpeted as a WiFi killer. Why would you need WiFi if you had multi-megabits of mobile broadband on-tap? Given all of LTE’s technical advantages it was widely expected that LTE would rise and WiFi use would diminish. Didn’t happen of course. In fact, far from attenuating WiFi use, LTE seemed to stimulate it as many studies from the time showed.
So here we are on the cusp of 5G and this time it’s the WiFi people who are getting their retaliation in first - or so it sometimes seems. According to the WiFi Broadband Alliance, the IEEE’s latest WiFi standard, 802.11ax, is being positioned as (amongst other things) a way to fast track 5G use cases. The WiFi proponents reckon many of the applications in 5G’s sights can be accomplished using the latest version of WiFi (WiFi 6).
Room for both?
WiFi proponents are demanding more than a simple offload or support role this time around. They talk about there being room for both sets of technologies, perhaps working together. Both, say the more neutral observers, have their place depending on the nature of the applications.
We’ll be putting the WiFi case in greater depth over the coming weeks, but in the meantime here is some incoming fire from the opposing camp.
Huawei, as it would be the first to insist, supports all the major technologies, WiFi included. But when it comes to 5G it knows where its loyalties lie. It’s just released its 5G indoors play under the headline ‘Huawei Releases 5G LampSite Family as All Indoor Scenarios Go to 5G’.
It says its 5G LampSite Family solutions will see carriers build 5G indoor networks that boast ultra-fast user experience, easy management, and quick deployment. “With 5G,” it says, “more than 70 per cent of services will be provided indoors. Panoramic HD video, VR, cloud gaming, and cloud PC will be predominantly performed indoors. Forecasts show that 70% of data traffic will be generated indoors in 5G. At the initial stage of 5G, eMBB (NR) services are expected to provide considerable help in upgrading user experience. This will continue to stimulate the momentum of indoor traffic,” it claims.
"In 5G, indoor experience will become a key focus for global carriers,” said Ritchie Peng, President of Huawei Small Cell Product Line. We are confident that 5G LampSite Family solutions will also be widely accepted and seen as the quintessential tools to help carriers build 5G indoor networks in all scenarios for the best 5G indoor experience."
In the early stages of 5G development, claims Huawei, indoor hotspots and high-value areas will be the real keystones for enabling carriers to build leading 5G brands. This will underscore the importance of indoor 5G networks in airports, subways, and shopping malls. Hotels and office buildings, where high-ARPU users are mainly concentrated, will have higher expectations on 5G indoor coverage and user experience, though showing a comparatively small traffic demand. These locations will be another perfect example of critical indoor scenarios for 5G that are only after the hotspots. As the penetration of 5G terminals and applications grows, 5G indoor coverage demands will undoubtedly expand into small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and street shops.
Clearly Huawei expects a WiFi-shrinking scenario indoors. Will it be proved right?
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