Role of Wi-FI in 5G

June 27, 2018

Wi-Fi has been around for more than 20 years. It has continued to evolve with the addition of new functionalities and improvement in performance. As we move to 5G, Wi-Fi is also evolving to support, meeting the IMT-2020 vision.

Next version of Wi-Fi, 802.11ax will provide following enhancements over previous version 802.11ac:

  • Higher Throughput
  • More usability in a dense environment
  • Better power efficiency allowing more sleep time (Important for IoT applications)
  • Usage of OFDMA, allowing granular allocation of resources
  • Higher Security with WPA3 introducing 192 bit government-grade security and Simultaneous authentication of equals( SAE) which makes dictionary attacks attack to identify password.

Other technology 802.11ay will support higher frequency bands (60GHz), This is useful for applications like AR/VR.

Wi-Fi and 5G are complementary as Wi-Fi is critical in meeting many of the 5G needs and use cases

Wi-Fi has got huge penetration indoors like Homes, Enterprises, coffee shops and airport lounge. Cellular, is prevalent outdoors. Cellular also provides indoors coverage but signal quality is lower. Even if there is cellular connectivity indoors, the high capacity of Wi-Fi complements cellular, and together they deliver a better user experience.

Wi-Fi is going to get even closer to cellular with the integration with 5G. In the past, in 4G, there were a lot of technologies developed for the integration of Wi-Fi and cellular. We had LWA, which is LTE Wi-Fi aggregation, and LWIP, which is LTE and WLAN integration with IPsec tunnel.

5G provides new opportunities for integration One of them is the separation between control units and distributed units adopted in the 5G architecture. Integration will come in different flavours. Component level integration will allow reuse of some of the Wi-Fi and 5G components and of the antenna. Device level integration will also allow the user to move seamlessly from Cellular coverage area to areas where coverage is not so good and Wi-Fi takes over by reducing connection and latency, ensuring a seamless handoff. 5G and Wi-Fi can be integrated to a level where Wi-Fi can be treated as one of the 5G radio access technology (RAT).

Edge computing and network slicing will bring the network closer to the enterprise giving them much finer control of the network. They will be able to manage their own devices and will be able to provide predictable service and quality. In 5G, the ability to marry the elements of the 5G core with the existing and future installed base of Wi-Fi will be a differentiator.

Wi-Fi and 5G will go as complementary technologies. They will be deployed and configured to provide the best user experience.

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