Wi-Fi and 5G are often pitted against one another, but the technologies are more likely to work in tandem than outduel the other, SDxCentral reports. “There really isn’t going to be a winner,” David D. Coleman, director of technology at Extreme Networks, told SDxCentral. “They’re likely going to coexist and complement each other over time.”
Wi-Fi is a known entity
Wi-Fi is currently in its sixth iteration and its global market share is expected to reach $31.3 billion by 2027. Additionally, Wi-Fi 6’s features provide better performance as well as improved roaming and throughput, according to Verizon. Wi-Fi 6 is also designed to extend device battery life, allow more devices per router and work better in dense or crowded areas. It is the technology most people currently use for their wireless communications indoors.
5G—the new kid on the block
The fifth generation of wireless connectivity is the sector’s “shiny new object,” but its presence means a lot for businesses, according to Coleman. The key benefit being that 5G networks can be private, as well as licensed, unlicensed or shared. Additionally, 5G can be customized to a company’s specific needs. Enterprises expect full integration of 5G that is downsized for private use, has flexible consumption models and offers unified service management and advanced policy management, SDxCentral reports.
Meanwhile, the International Data Corporation (IDC) noted the increased focus on deploying private 5G networks as a local area network (LAN) tool for Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) use cases.
Additional 5G strengths include its ability to provide the necessary coverage, speed and security that exceeds Wi-Fi’s capabilities. 5G networks also are a better bet when long-range wireless coverage is needed.
“Wi-Fi is a very good indoor solution largely because of the ability to exceed Ethernet-like speeds,” Gartner VP analyst Tim Zimmerman told SDxCentral. “The area where it’s a little more difficult to have Wi-Fi is outside.”
Private 5G is also more secure than Wi-Fi because private networks are built from scratch.
Where 5G will shine brightest
Currently, 5G is best served in industries that are geographically remote and infrastructure intensive, according to experts. These industries include manufacturing, mining and energy, and oil and gas. They are using 5G to increase productivity, power data collection and real-time monitoring.
Going forward, private 5G looks like it will become even more popular. The market is predicted to reach $36.08 billion by 2030, with top providers such as Cisco, Nokia and Amazon looking to be part of the market’s growing Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR).
Downside of 5G—cost and complexity
While effective, private 5G can be costly. Replacing Wi-Fi with private 5G includes investing in the infrastructure, as well as device replacements or upgrades. Coleman said the price tag is his clients’ primary concern. They want to know how much the initial setup, deployment and maintenance to “future-proof” themselves will cost, as well as figure out a strategy and determine their return on investment.
Additionally, 5G is more difficult to manage than Wi-Fi. More people are familiar with the latter when it comes to design and deployment. With private 5G still in its early stages, there just aren’t as many people who are well-versed in the ins and outs of it yet.
“It’s entering enterprises a little slower than anticipated,” Coleman said. “(Although) it definitely is catching on.”
5G and Wi-Fi — likely teammates, not opponents
Both Wi-Fi and 5G have their share of strengths and weaknesses, which Coleman believes will “balance each other out,” SDxCentral reports.
“Over time they will complement each other. A lot of enterprises will use both technologies. Eventually we will see a convergence.”
You can read the entire article at SDX Central.