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How ISPs can provide a home network fit for the 5G era

(Image credit: Image Credit: Supparsorn / Shutterstock)

What does the typical consumer’s mobile connectivity look like?

Whether they have a single smartphone or an array of different mobile devices for different purposes, most consumers use a mixture of WiFi and cellular connectivity. When it is available, WiFi is preferable thanks to its speed and reliability. Out and about, mobile networks fill in the gaps – and the providers of those networks fight to deliver an experience which matches WiFi connectivity.

However, the 5G era is upon us, and with it the promise of faster and more reliable cellular mobile connectivity than ever before. This could mean that mobile network providers are able to offer consumers broadband-equivalent speeds, particularly in urban and highly-populated areas.

So what will this mean for ISPs?

The 5G era will increase home network expectations

As consumers are increasingly aware, the promise of 5G is enormous. Drastically faster network speeds and greater bandwidth could in turn power everything from smart cities to the ability to consume rich multimedia content on the move. The first 5G-enabled phones are now available to buy in some regions. The standard is set to enable consumers to access performance equivalent to their home WiFi – on mobile networks.

This isn’t to say that home WiFi will become obsolete, of course. Far from it. Home WiFi networks will still remain a core requirement for consumers for two main reasons. First, data-hungry applications will mean that data allowances will quickly be used up on 5G networks. Only individuals with unlimited data plans will be able to, say, stream high-definition video or download hefty multimedia files across mobile networks day after day, and it may be that such plans get much more expensive in line with the increased capacity of 5G networks. Consumers will still need to have an alternative to monthly data plans.

Second, many of the connected devices in the home, from smart TVs to gaming consoles, still require a home network to connect to the internet, and can’t connect via mobile networks. Furthermore, the rise of 5G is happening in conjunction with more and more household appliances requiring network connectivity as the IoT moves into our homes. Many smart home devices require connectivity to WiFi rather than a mobile cellular network.

However, this does mean there will be a newfound pressure for the home network performance to match that of 5G. ISPs therefore need to ensure that the home network is functioning better than ever before. The question is – how?

ISPs need to ensure the home network is fit for the 5G era

Achieving home networks fit for the 5G era means delivering reliable coverage throughout the entire home, so that users can switch their smartphones and tablets from 5G to an equally capable home network. It also means delivering reliable coverage even when large numbers of devices are connected to that network; last year, the government estimated that every household in the UK owned at least ten connected devices and has predicted that this figure will rise to 15 by next year. Many of those devices will have particularly high expectations places on them in terms of the amount of bandwidth they require.

All this is particularly important when it comes to realising the benefits of new WiFi technology too, such as WiFi 6. This new generation of WiFi not only offers a speed boost; it is also focused on improving performance when multiple devices are connected to the same network.

An outstanding offering

But how can ISPs guarantee reliable WiFi coverage throughout the home? Offering outstanding WiFi means balancing consumers’ need for high-speed connectivity with their data-rich services, including running multiple data-hungry applications and devices at the same time.

ISPs need to ensure that they are working to help consumer achieve the best possible combination of speed and performance on their home networks – particularly in relation to the environmental challenges experienced by those living in large or complex buildings. Powerline communications (PLC) adaptors which boost the performance of WiFi within the home have long been an effective option for helping ISPs to deliver top-quality performance – and now the updated powerline communications standard is set to deliver an even greater boost.

This second-generation update to the standard means that PLC units should be capable of delivering the speeds needed for 4K VR or multiple HD streaming – not just to selected access points but to every power outlet in the home. This is in itself a hefty performance uplift, and also means improved stability and a PLC range of up to 500 metres. In other words, second-generation PLC adaptors can help ISPs to get ahead of the 5G curve and deliver the perfect balance of speed and service on home-based WiFi.

The 5G era is well underway. Whilst it is unlikely to herald the end of the home WiFi network, it does look set to increase consumer expectations of home networking. Forward-thinking ISPs need to get ahead of the game now, and be ready to provide a whole-home WiFi solution which works.

Sebastian Richter, Senior Product Manager Operator Solutions, devolo (opens in new tab)

Sebastian Richter is the Director of Product Management Home Networking at devolo AG