Will Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and CBRS Continue to Co-Exist?

Perry Correll Director, Competitive Intelligence Published 3 May 2019

This is the final blog in a 4-part series on three prominent wireless technologies, the previous blogs included:

In this post, I want to wrap up with a discussion of how these three wireless technologies will interact and co-exist in the enterprise moving forward.

To learn more about anything discussed in this blog or my prior three, be sure to attend my upcoming webinar Wi-Fi 6, 5th Gen, CBRS Wireless Technologies Competitors, Collaboration, or Just Coexistence.

Let’s Return to the Primary Question – Will 5G Replace Wi-Fi?

No, never, nada, not a chance, in your dreams, etc.

Too often technical advantages are used to justify why one item is better than the other and we all know numbers can be used to ‘prove’ any point. However, use cases and reality are often far more important. Think of it this way you have a sedan, a pickup truck, and a motorcycle – they’re all different use cases; the same goes for wireless technology.

Wi-Fi is a staple for enterprise connectivity, or as I read in an article from Claus Hetting of Wi-Fi NOW, “it is the Swiss Army knife of wireless communication, able to support almost any type of device, deployment, market or use case.” It is the default wireless technology in almost any device and no one is ready to change any time soon.

In many ways Wi-Fi is like Ethernet technology in the 90s, it just worked. In the mid-nineties and through the early part of the century new wired technologies came along to challenge it with advanced features. To be honest Token Ring, FDDI, and ATM all had technical advantages they positioned against Ethernet, but those technologies never were able to displace the position Ethernet had already secured.

That being said, 5G and CBRS are not going to fade away like those old wired technologies, these wireless technologies will have a significant role to play operating alongside or even in cooperation with Wi-Fi.

Subscribe Now!

What’s the Outlook on 5G?

As far as 5G is concerned, no other technology offers as much mobility and reach as cellular technology. It is available in your house, your business, your car, or just walking down the street. Cellular technology is almost always there and with the additional advancements offered by 5th generation technology, it’s value will extend beyond basic connectivity.

Its shortcoming is a significant lack of services beyond the phone (I.e. laptop, tablet). Additionally, trying to use as a replacement for enterprise Wi-Fi would result in data traffic having to transit the carrier network even if the destination is a local server, not an optimal solution.

On CBRS?

Finally, there is CBRS. In reality, this is not a competitor to 5G as most expect CBRS to become a RAN (Radio Area Network) for 5G services. As far as a competitor for Wi-Fi the message is the same as above as CBRS is essentially indoor, small cell cellular operation on shared license spectrum.

As a result of the above, 5G will continue to dominate the realm of outdoor mobility with CBRS offering a more reliable cellular service for challenging indoor environments. Wi-Fi has and will continue to dominate the enterprise and hotspot wireless market due to its simplicity and economical deployment capabilities. And with more spectrum expected in the future (6GHz), there is no slowdown in sight.

The Bottom-Line?

Wi-Fi, 5G, and CBRS each have individual value propositions and advantages unique to their technology and capabilities that cannot be 100% emulated by the other technology. However, in some cases, another technology can offer a ‘reasonably acceptable’ level of service allowing it to support all use cases.

Well that about covers this topic, the wrap up is all three technologies may be leveraged in the future to design a single wireless infrastructure, or maybe just one or two depending on the use case. Next step is to attend my upcoming webinar!

Related Enterprise Stories