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Connecting to the future: All you need to know about the next generation of wireless connectivity

(Image credit: Image Credit: Mediacom)

Wi-Fi 6 actually do? And when will they be available for widespread use? Ultimately, businesses need to understand how 5G and Wi-Fi 6 can impact their organisation in order to effectively take advantage of next generation connectivity.

It is difficult to imagine a world where we’re not connected to each other by every device we interact with. Whether it’s to work, learn or play, wireless connectivity is a resource that we depend on and has become embedded in our everyday lives.

However, with the introduction of 5G and Wi-Fi 6, we are on the cusp of a new and improved mobile experience. Analyst firm IDC recently forecast that 5G network infrastructure revenue would reach $26 billion in 2022, due to more networks investing in the area, and more vendors producing 5G-enabled solutions. Furthermore, last year 5G underwent multiple trials across the world, with Huawei, Three and Vodafone all beginning to roll out and test this technology. To go alongside this, the next generation wireless standard, Wi-Fi 6, promises to dramatically improve connectivity in congested areas.

The enthusiasm from vendors to lead the connectivity conversation as these new technologies emerge has created hype and confusion, where we’re often left asking ourselves: what will 5G or

The benefits

The next generation of networking is set to be faster, stronger and support the development of new services, applications and innovative customer experiences. Both technologies provide a multitude of benefits, 5G offering rapid speeds, low latency and high density support and, Wi-Fi 6 granting users better power efficiency, greater capacity and improved performance in dense environments.

Picture this: you walk into a high street retailer and use augmented reality to watch a live demonstration of the product you are pointing to in action. These types of immersive experiences can only be enabled by high-speed, seamless wireless connectivity. Beyond retail, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will be pivotal to supporting self-driving cars on a motorway. It will be vital to provide the bandwidth and capacity for every car to interact with each other in real-time ensuring complete safety and coordinated traffic flow. It even has the potential to save lives: imagine a surgeon performing a delicate operation, using virtual reality while they are in a different country to the patient. There are countless fascinating opportunities on the horizon underpinned by next generation connectivity.

Consequently, organisations must be proactive with the adoption of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. The ability to successfully deploy this technology and create unique experiences will be the difference between success and failure. But first, they must understand how these technologies are different from one another, and also how they can work in tandem.

Spot the difference

While 5G and Wi-Fi 6 enable new and exciting applications, merging them together and treating them as the same offering would be incorrect. So how can we differentiate? 5G is a wide area technology, meaning it is deployed widely across cities and rural areas so we can connect anywhere. It’s the primary technology used outdoors. Carriers such as Vodafone and BT deploy the infrastructure to support 5G and consumers pay them for the service for each device connected.

Wi-Fi 6 on the other hand is a local area technology, meaning consumers connect to it at a local site – through a router housed inside a building. It’s the primary technology used indoors. While it is free to use for the end-user, someone (typically the local site) is ultimately paying for the Wi-Fi infrastructure and the Internet service it connects to. Some use cases say that 5G will be 10x’s faster than 4G, and Wi-Fi 6 will be 4x’s faster than Wi-Fi 5, however we will not know their full speeds and capabilities until they are implemented. And of course, the technology will take some time to roll out, so we expect the benefits to deploy to main Cities first and then progress outwards – there is no big bang switch from old to new unfortunately.

While both address complex issues in different environments, using 5G and Wi-Fi 6 together will enable the wireless service necessary to run advanced applications. By working together, each can play to its strengths to cover indoor/outdoor usage across all types of devices. To make the most of this opportunity, both of these next generation wireless technologies should co-exist. While they serve very different use cases, the areas where they overlap provides an opportunity for businesses to deliver the ultimate user experience.

For example, retailers could see this intersection revolutionise their high street offering, with personalisation and prioritising enhanced customer experience. Last year’s Conversion Rate Optimisation Report from Econsultancy found that 93 per cent of companies are seeing an uplift in conversion rates when using personalisation and next generation technology. Retailers can enjoy seamless user profiling as online customers come into their store, immediately recognising their preferences and shopping habits. This, in turn, allows these businesses to provide a truly targeted experience and differentiate themselves against their competitors. Despite the sector changing, there are a few challenges that organisations must overcome before they realise these benefits.

Let’s get started

The promises of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 sound great, but these new technologies are not a going to change the world by themselves. If there is a chokepoint elsewhere in the network, it will be impossible to enable the lightning fast connections that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 can offer. Furthermore, in many cases, businesses will need to upgrade their infrastructure – servers, storage, wired networks – in order to deliver new applications and services seamlessly. All end-user devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops will also need to have this technology imbedded before these new technologies can deliver the full benefits of these promised speeds.

This is why an end-to-end understanding and assurance of the seamless operation of the ‘system’ that delivers these services is critical to success, especially with mission-critical services such as driverless cars and remote surgery. Monitoring solutions that provide visibility and ensure performance of the end-to-end communication path will become vital to delivering these new functionalities.

Ultimately, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 both hold an exciting promise. But, there are hurdles to overcome and some final ratification of standards for Wi-Fi 6, before they are a part of our everyday lives. As is usually the case with networking, the success of these technologies will be defined by how little we notice them. As these new technologies continue to develop, complementary integration between the two will be key to enabling a seamless user experience. Once this has been achieved, we will have reached the point where next generation wireless connectivity is an everyday norm.

Alan Kinsey, Specialist Solutions Engineer, Xirrus, EMEA, Riverbed Technology
Image Credit: Mediacom

As an experienced Technology Engineer Alan uses his networking abilities and experience to help Riverbed’s clients understand and apply business solutions to networking problems.