Wi-Fi can't rest on its laurels in the 5G era

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Mansoor Hanif, CTO, Ofcom

In a wide-ranging interview, Mansoor Hanif, the new CTO of the UK's telecoms and media regulator, Ofcom, talks in detail about the continued importance and impact of Wi-Fi in the age of 5G. As Ofcom CTO, part of his remit is to ensure that the regulator's work for both domestic consumers and enterprises is fully informed of and by the latest developments in communications technologies and he is sure that as 5G becomes a commercial reality and Wi-Fi 6 arrives upon the scene, the technology will continue to have a very valuable role to play - provided it keeps evolving.

He says that while there are those within the industry who will wish to focus on very specific aspects of 5G such as the New Radio (5G NR) air interface and new core system architecture, the majority of industry players regard 5G as a revolutionary framework through which to englobe and integrate all access technologies. This is where Wi-Fi comes in, not least because it can be integrated in an end-to-end framework that includes all access technologies whether licensed or unlicensed. Thus it will have an integral role as part of a single orchestrated platform in a network where security has been built in from the ground up.

However, Mansoor Hanif believes that Wi-Fi does face something of a challenge to stay relevant in that while 5G is strengthened by a wide, overarching vision for the future of the technology, Wi-Fi does not, as yet, seem to have an equivalent forward-looking vision beyond the immediacy of Wi-FI coverage and connectivity, nor does it have an end-to-end development plan or a framework able to englobe other technologies. Thus, Wi-Fi could face the risk of becoming just a piece in the jigsaw of the wider 5G framework rather than having a unique framework of its own to would confer vitality and longevity on Wi-Fi.

Filmed at Wireless Global Congress, London 2018

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