Office & Enterprise

Will 5G herald the end of Wi-Fi?

Paul Vanderlaan Apr 24, 2019

5G cellular technology makes great promises to compete with older Wi-Fi technologies. However Wi-Fi is also making advances. Paul Vanderlaan considers the pros & cons and predicts the likely impact for the underlying cabling infrastructure in an enterprise environment.

Why is Wi-Fi preferred over cellular today?

The current generation of Wi-Fi (802.11ac) provides stronger signals which results in a faster data rate and reduced power consumption. This is important because a lot of the devices are battery powered or going to be powered by solar cells which don't have a lot of power capability. So reducing power consumption is a priority. Secondly Wi-Fi is expected to service bandwidth intensive applications, particularly video. People will want to see their video uninterrupted.

What is 5G?

5G is BIG. 5G will drive extensive global infrastructure improvements for the next 10-15 years. However regulations and expertise shortages will slow down its deployment pace. As the 5th generation of cellular wireless systems 5G will have a higher capacity needed to support more broadband users. Both Wi-Fi and 5G will have to cope with higher density as there will be more devices out there. This is particularly important in ultra-high density environments where you have a lot of machine-to-machine communications.

Will 5G replace Wi-Fi in enterprise environment?

We see Wi-Fi remain the wireless transport of choice as it is too well established to disappear in the next 15 years. 5G will improve cellular network capacity bus costs, limitations and monetization will ensure Wi-Fi remains the wireless transport of choice in enterprise.

What does this mean for cabling infrastructure in the office?

As the Access Point (AP) speed increases, the reach decreases to maintain the same speed. So in order to provide coverage in the same area for a faster speed you are going to need more APs. This in turn requires more cabling which will result in more Alien Crosstalk. If you use Category 5e or 6 cabling you will encounter deployment and length limitation issues when using new Wi-Fi infrastructure. You will also have higher power consumption because these devices have more processes between themselves and thus use more power.

The recommendations for any new Wi-Fi deployments is to install additional drops if you want to fully utilise the future increases in speed. And you will need to install Category 6A cabling for these new drops in addition to the APs you are going to upgrade. This will ensure you won't have Alien Crosstalk issues down the road. Category 6A provides you with 10 Gbps pipelines for future consumption and decreases the possibility to having to re-cable or mitigate.

About the author

Paul Vanderlaan

Based in the US, Paul has over 25 years of structured cabling experience serving in a variety of engineering and product line management roles. An expert in component and application standards, especially in augmented Category 6 specifications, he represented Nexans in his role as Technical Manager of standardization and technology on several IEEE task forces. Paul is co-author of multiple patents related to the design of copper and fibre cabling for the premises.

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