Wifi-6 goes toe-to-toe with 5G claims

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is championing the results of a wifi-6 trial with Mettis Aerospace as proof the technology can be a viable alternative to 5G.

Wifi has largely been ignored in recent months as the 5G euphoria hits deafening levels, though the WBA is keen to ensure this technology can grab a slice of the Industry 4.0 pie with this trial.

Taking place in the 27-acre Mettis Aerospace facility in the West Midlands, the WBA has touted several use cases, including 4K streaming from a webcam mounted on machinery within the factory and augmented reality testing of machinery, suggesting speeds of 700 Mbps as well as latency below 6 ms.

“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of wifi-6,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communications with furnaces, presses and heat, a lot of moving heavy machinery and the presence of dust and in-air particulates.

“Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that wifi-6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If wifi-6 can deliver highly reliable, high quality and high bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere.”

With mobile communications stealing much of the thunder in recent years, wifi has become an increasing unpopular technology during conference presentations. During a London event in recent weeks, Shell IT CTO & VP TaCIT Architecture Johan Krebbers suggested the team would not consider wifi as an option during Industry 4.0 trials due to the time and cost implications. According to Krebbers, it simply isn’t worth it.

That said, this trial might give decision-makers something new to think about.

“The wifi-6 infrastructure installed as part of the trials has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, reliable connectivity and consistent coverage across the target area,” said Dave Green, Head of IT at Mettis Aerospace.

“We are seeing immediate benefits in terms of the data we’re now able to collect and use. Moving forward, we will be able to vastly increase the data we collect from devices across our business, enhancing our manufacturing processes, reducing variability and increasing productivity.”

The WBA claims the trial proves wifi-6 is able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronization of factory floor machinery and equipment with centralized monitoring and control systems. As part of the trial Cisco provided 11 Catalyst 9100 access points, iBwave undertook a site survey of the manufacturing floor, while Broadcom and Intel provided the chipsets.

While 5G is dominating all the headlines for the moment, wifi might still have a place in the industry for those companies who are more risk-adverse. Trials such as this might well provide confidence to those who avoid the unknown perils of 5G technologies.

Wireless Broadband Alliance extols the virtues of 802.11ax

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has released a whitepaper promoting the benefits of the latest version of the ugly sibling of the telecommunications world, wifi.

With the world of 5G approaching, wifi enthusiasts have taken the opportunity to pitch relevance for the technology. Despite being often overlooked as a critical component of todays connected world, nearly 70% of smartphone data is carried over wifi networks, covering up for weak cellular signal due to distance from cell sites or weak indoor coverage.

The introduction of the latest generation of wifi technology, 802.11ax, is set to ‘revolutionise’ the industry, according to the WBA, by enabling a new range of opportunities that benefit operators, enterprises and end users. Both as standalone business and facilitating the early delivery of many 5G use cases, the WBA claims 802.11ax will open up the wifi market.

“Investment in 802.11ax offers operators and enterprises a compelling proposition to dramatically accelerate the delivery of 5G use cases, at a much lower cost,” said Tiago Rodrigues, General Manager at the WBA.

“However, it shouldn’t be viewed as ‘just the next evolution in Wi-Fi technology’ that can complement cellular. The WBA has developed this paper as part of its venture to raise awareness of 802.11ax as a standalone technology, providing new capabilities which can be used by the entire industry to address a whole new set of opportunities and use cases.”

Looking at the new features, the WBA believes 802.11ax can solve a number of business challenges operators and enterprises are facing today. Firstly, multi-user MIMO uplink and downlink to increase channel capacity when servicing multiple, simultaneous devices. Another interesting feature is Target Wake Time which would allow IoT devices to sleep to reduce access contention and wakeup in scheduled time slots to improve device battery life. Finally, flexible channel sizes and resource units will allow operators to offer more efficient IoT support, such as connections that require lower data rates.

Wifi is a very important aspect of the connected world, though one which does not receive a significant amount of attention. Some might hope this will change and we transition into the 5G economy, though we suspect it won’t.

The road to 5G – Where are we headed and when will we get there?

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, takes a big-picture look at the dawn of 5G and how it might play out.

From smartphones and tablets, to connected cars and even smart kettles, the world we are living in is becoming increasingly connected. In fact according to Gartner, by 2020, there will be almost 21 billion connected ‘things’ in use around the world. 5G is promising to be the framework for the connected world, with things, data applications, transport systems and cities seamlessly talking to one another and sharing information to improve our quality of life.

But with 5G only a few years away (and with some operators even citing 5G implementations by 2018), what will a 5G world look like? How will licensed and unlicensed technologies work together to deliver new services? How will Wi-Fi and mobile networks evolve to cope with 5G? And how will the gap in interfaces be addressed to connect different devices and across vertical industries? We’ve asked the more than 65 operators, vendors and hubs from six different continents to share exactly what it is they think will need to happen to kick-start the road to 5G, and found out from industry leaders what they think the 5G world will really look like.

What is 5G?

There has been much debate in the industry as to what 5G will actually look like, with almost every company having their own definition of 5G. While we know it will be the glue that connects everything to everyone, how do the companies that are helping to make 5G a reality see it?

For KT, 5G is about providing massive seamless connectivity for all devices, in hyper-real time speed and with low latency. This will support countless devices hitting the network and trying to gain access at the same time, as well as support various types of traffic – from Kbps to massive 3D content and holograms going through the future network.

For Cisco, “5G is far bigger than radio and transcends mobility to provide networking as a platform… Think of the enormous potential for countries, cities, venues, industries, transportation, people and all of the infinite interplay between things, people and services/applications. If we play it right 5G can live up to the hype and expectations to support and deliver new services that have not yet been invented.”

While the 5G umbrella network encompasses a virtually limitless number of verticals, when will 5G really come in to fruition?

Expectation vs reality

While most of the industry is already looking into 5G related topics, and with many believing 5G will be standardized by 2020, only a third of the industry expects to have deployments in place by this time. Operators are even less optimistic, with two thirds expecting to have 5G deployments in place by 2025.

For 5G to be successful, the industry agrees that convergence of services and technologies, virtualization and regulation of shared spectrum models are critical. For operators, virtualization is an absolute must for 5G to become a reality. Standardization is a major industry gap that needs to be addressed, along with coexistence of technologies and certification.

For Orange, 5G will not only extend and open new opportunities in vertical markets – from factories to utilities, healthcare to automotive, agriculture and cities – it will offer a consistent user experience. However, like any new generation, 5G will require significant investment from operators – and with revenues decreasing, a major challenge the industry faces is having a regulatory environment that encourages investment in connectivity.

Convergence and coexistence

More than half of the industry believes that 5G will be a combination of licensed and unlicensed technologies, with an agreement that unlicensed, in some way, shape or form, will be relevant for 5G. We are predicting that Wi-Fi will be the unlicensed spectrum technology that is a significant driving force for 5G.

For Cisco, “there has never been a better time to start building the next generation 5G ready network. The market knows it, [and] our service provider customers know it as well… 5G will be as strong as its weakest link across domains: HetNet, Cloud-RAN, IP transport, mobile core, edge and orchestration, analytics, and security”.

ZTE believes that unlicensed technologies, coupled with core networks, can increase the access network capacity and benefit users’ wireless experience. Intel is very much in agreement when it comes to the convergence and coexistence of licensed and unlicensed technology – a world where everything is connected, it believes the industry needs all the spectrum it can get.

The perks of unlicensed

The industry believes that the services that are set to be improved by the use of unlicensed technologies as part of 5G are smart cities, IoT sensor networks, safety and surveillance, smart home and healthcare.

Why unlicensed? The main benefits of unlicensed technologies focus on enhanced throughput, and better cost and coverage.

Orange believes that “Network operators will need to access various spectrum resources to deliver ubiquitous services… LAA and LWA are seen as complementing licensed technologies to provide increased capacity for small cells in a variety of locations such as indoor for enterprises and public venues, and outdoor hotspots and events.”

Cisco is of a similar view, and believes that 5G is about leveraging the best access technologies in a seamless manner to stay plugged in the connective tissue of internet, with ‘seamless interoperability’ as 5G’s mantra.

Key 5G takeaways

5G is on the horizon, and the industry believes it will be a combination of licensed and unlicensed technologies. Convergence of services and technologies is currently the industry hot topic, with coexistence enabling the efficiency levels seen in Wi-Fi networks. With smart cities, IoT sensor networks, safety and surveillance being the industry verticals driven by 5G, more needs to be done in terms of spectrum allocation, cost and regulation, in order arrive to make a 5G a reality.

 

ShrikantProfileShrikant Shenwai is the CEO and one of the founders of Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). Under his leadership, the WBA has transformed into a global industry organization with 130+ members, including leading wireless & broadband operators and technology companies who are driving the vision of a frictionless wireless service experience for Citizens, Businesses, Cities and Things. The WBA membership is strategically focussed on enabling services with next generation Wi-Fi and significant adjacent technologies to address business issues and opportunities for service providers, enterprises and cities. To drive the development of connected communities and cities, the WBA has launched specific global initiatives such as World Wi-Fi Day and the Connected City Advisory Board. An Electronics & Communication engineer by training, Shrikant Shenwai has lived and worked in Asia for many years and currently lives in Canada with his family.