Mobile operators received further verification that Wi-Fi will play a critical role to the success of 5G, as illustrated in a new white paper developed by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance. Developed with input from mobile carriers, telecom equipment manufacturers and Wi-Fi advocates, the WBA & NGMN Joint Task Force: RAN Convergence White Paper explores the importance of existing and future Wi-Fi and cellular convergence, highlighting techniques that enable convergence and identifying solutions to bridge technology gaps.
According to the paper’s findings, mobile operators will benefit from the convergence of Wi-Fi and 5G by gaining improved visibility into Wi-Fi networks, affording them the ability to control customer experience, deliver better services to customers and provide enterprise Wi-Fi network management solutions to enterprise customers. Wi-Fi operators, meanwhile, will benefit from convergence by gaining improved visibility and transition management as they operate overlapping cellular and Wi-Fi networks, ultimately resulting in an improved user experience. Additionally, enterprise Wi-Fi networks will gain the ability to access operator-provided 5G services.
Importantly, the paper also identifies new business opportunities created through the convergence of Wi-Fi and 5G at the network and RAN layers, including enterprise use cases, manufacturing, public hotspots and residential applications.
Some of the key use cases covered in the paper include:
- Convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi for Enterprise Wi-Fi: Currently, most enterprises use Wi-Fi technology to provide wireless access to employees, contractors and visitors. The paper identifies three scenarios for convergence of Wi-Fi and 5G to ensure a diverse set of deployment scenarios and business opportunities for both Wi-Fi providers and mobile operators.
- Factories of the Future: Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is driving a significant increase in the amount of data that traverses the network, especially in low-power wide-area networks (LP-WANs). At the same time, manufacturers increasingly are incorporating machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), advanced analytics and automation into their processes. The paper provides a deployment scenario for a manufacturing environment in which the convergence of 5G NR and Wi-Fi are used to provide improved connectivity, traffic routing and support for Wi-Fi devices with and without identity credentials.
- Connected Cities: Enterprises and cities increasingly are deploying Passpointä-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots to provide the public with Internet connectivity. The paper includes two scenarios that illustrate how the convergence of Wi-Fi and 5G will enable enterprises and cities to create contiguous Wi-Fi access through the use of public hotspots.
- Residential Connectivity: A variety of devices are used by consumers to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity for both mobile and fixed devices in the home, including Ethernet, powerline and Coax. Additionally, residential local area networks (LANs) increasingly are connected with community Wi-Fi service, while femtocells are used to bolster connectivity in certain deployments. The paper provides a scenario for providing a mix of traffic within the home Wi-Fi network and femtocell 5G deployments.
The paper concludes that a new set of 5G use cases and verticals may require combined resources from both cellular and Wi-Fi networks. This will provide cost-effective solutions that meet diverse sets of requirements on throughput, latency, connection density, coverage, availability and reliability. This is especially important for smartphones that carry a significant amount of data traffic by accessing Wi-Fi. Convergence of Wi-Fi and 5G will lead to better user experience for smartphone customers and create new business opportunities for both Wi-Fi and mobile operators.
The paper is available here.