How Will Wi-Fi 6 and 5G Work Together? (Part 2)

This week, we continue our coverage of the potential future convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G network technology. While the two parallel technologies coexist today, convergence will provide a better overall user experience in a number of common use cases, as laid out in a recent white paper from the Wireless Broadband Association (WBA) and Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN). In this article, we summarize 3 of these use cases and highlight the critical advancement required for full convergence in each case.

Use Case 1: Enterprise

One of the biggest challenges to convergence in an enterprise network is gaps in cellular coverage in indoor environments. This is particularly notable in the case of 5G, as its frequency band can struggle to penetrate certain interior walls and other permanent obstacles. Therefore, in order to ensure a seamless user experience, it becomes imperative that users can access 5G Core services over the Wi-Fi network as well, as depicted in the example deployment diagram below:

an example diagram of a converged enterprise network with 5G and Wi-Fi services.
Source: WBA/NGMN, RAN Convergence Paper. September 2019.

However, this convergence is not without complications. One of the prevalent features of Enterprise Wi-Fi networks is the set of restrictions placed on the network’s use, e.g., accepting Terms of Service before accessing the network, regulatory compliance measures, or Policy Control measures that limit content access or aggregate throughput. The latter policies also tend to be very specific to each organization’s needs, so a one-size-fits-all approach from a 5G operator would likely be insufficient (compared to, say, regulatory compliance management). Therefore, it may become necessary for the mobile network operator to slice the network to allow Enterprise teams to achieve the requisite level of policy control specificity.

Use Case 2: Industrial

The factory automation of “Fourth Industrial Revolution” brings great promise of unprecedented flexibility and efficiency to the factory environment. It knits together a broad spectrum of emerging technologies, including business data analytics advancements, augmented reality, advanced robotics, and much more. Given the breadth of devices and technologies at play, the optimal configuration will often demand both 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity.

That said, it is critical that both communications technologies seamlessly work together; of the use cases we’re examining today, these factories have the most stringent network performance requirements. Robotics and other automated factory equipment require ultra-low latency, high reliability, and high service availability. In fact, ServiceMax estimates that each hour of unplanned downtime can cost factory operators an average of $250,000!

The diagram below depicts a potential deployment in a factory setting:

an example diagram of a converged factory network with 5G and Wi-Fi services.
Source: WBA/NGMN, RAN Convergence Paper. September 2019.

Case 3: Residential

Convergence experiences are not confined to only professional environments. While residential customers may not have the stringent policy or performance requirements that enterprise and industrial network operators have, it is perhaps the convergence that directly effects the widest range of customers. While most homeowners use Wi-Fi to deliver connectivity throughout their homes, some may choose to augment their cellular services with femto-cells and or macro-cells as well.

As with factory settings, homeowners (particularly those with more “smart home” connectivity) may employ such a broad range of end-user devices with a similarly broad range of latency, reliability, and availability requirements, it is still important for everything to work together, and for the right level of service to be delivered seamlessly across technologies. An example of a converged home network is depicted below:  

an example diagram of a converged home network with 5G and Wi-Fi services.
Source: WBA/NGMN, RAN Convergence Paper. September 2019.

Champion ONE offers a wide range of products to optimize your 5G or Wireless networks. For more information about particular solution sets, contact us today.

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