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What, if Anything, Does Emergence of 5G Mean for Wi-Fi?

Operators the world over are looking to commercialize multi-gigabit, low latency 5G services; it’s the predominant source of hype in the telecoms world and is touted as ultimately providing ubiquitous connectivity that will deliver new consumer and enterprise experiences, while giving operators new levels of flexibility and lower operational expenses.

At the same time, Wi-Fi, an incredible pervasive connectivity medium, has a tremendous installed base, is an affordable connectivity option given its reliance on unlicensed spectrum, and it’s continuing to evolve to provide faster speeds. So what’s the long-term relationship between 5G and Wi-Fi?

In short, 5G isn’t going to replace or displace Wi-Fi.

Intel’s Carlos Cordeiro, senior principal engineer and senior director in the Next Generation and Standards Group, described the relationship as “complementary” in a recent discussion with Senza Fili Principal Monica Paolini, which is available for download here.

“In talking to many people over the years, it’s always this discussion around how Wi-Fi fits with 5G,” Cordeiro told Paolini. “At Intel, we think Wi-Fi is critical in meeting many of the 5G needs and use cases. We see these two technologies as complementary. Wi-Fi has a huge penetration indoors. Enterprises, homes, coffee shops, and airport lounges, for example. Cellular, of course, is prevalent outdoors. Of course, with cellular you can also get coverage indoors, but signal quality is lower…We see this complementary relationship growing with 5G. 5G is going to open up even more opportunities for Wi-Fi, because the 5G capacity and latency requirements suit the Wi-Fi technology that is being developed today.”

In its 2018 Wi-Fi predictions, trade association Wi-Fi Alliance touched on the subject, noting that enhanced capacity will come to market this year with the availability of products compatible with the 802.11ax standard. “As a broader wave of next generation connectivity arrives, including the deployment of 5G networks, Wi-Fi Vantage will bring capabilities existing in cellular networks into the Wi-Fi sphere. Existing Wi-Fi technologies including WiGig and Wi-Fi Certified ac are already positioned to bring multi-gigabit speeds and high-performance connectivity to enable a range of 5G opportunities.” – RCR Wireless

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