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The 5G Era Is Coming — Do Enterprises Still Need Wi-Fi 6?

shi ri

Shi Ri

2021-05-18 875
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While wireless networks offer a great degree of business agility and technological flexibility, there remains some confusion about 5G and Wi-Fi 6. Indeed, with all the hype surrounding 5G, some have questioned if a Wi-Fi 6 network is necessary at all, given that the 5G era is already fast approaching. But Huawei expert and Chair of the IEEE802.11ax working group, Dr. Osama Aboul-Magd, has clearly stated that "5G and Wi-Fi 6 are two different things, so they don’t compete, more coexist."

While both technologies offer large bandwidth, low latency, and a massive amount of connections, their use cases differ: 5G is better suited for extensive outdoor coverage for individuals or industries, whereas Wi-Fi 6 excels in high-density indoor coverage for enterprises.

The Superior Option for Indoor Coverage

But what exactly makes Wi-Fi 6 the superior option for enterprises for indoor coverage?

Quite simply, Wi-Fi 6 allows enterprises to quickly establish their own networks, customized to their specific service needs. For example, an enterprise can tailor a network for an office environment while a school can optimize it for student access. Going beyond traditional Wi-Fi scenarios, Wi-Fi 6 can also be used for enterprise-grade Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and 4K applications, as well as for Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) in warehousing and logistics, and asset management for supermarkets and factories. In contrast, 5G focuses on public networks and is deployed in scenarios with high roaming and latency requirements, such as autonomous cars, drones, outdoor personal networks, and factories with ultra-low latency requirements (under 10 ms).

As such, there are several characteristics that make Wi-Fi 6 more suitable for indoor wireless coverage.

Operation Models

Enterprises can chose to own a Wi-Fi 6 network or simply consume it as a service. 5G, on the other hand, can only be provided as a service by a cellular service provider. As a result, Wi-Fi 6 offers far greater flexibility for customized services, from indoor navigation to user behavior analysis. Customizing carrier-provided 5G services is far more difficult.


Wi-Fi provides a diverse ecosystem. A majority of devices — from laptops, mobile phones, printers, scanners, and smart whiteboards to security cameras, AGVs, and robots — are already Wi-Fi ready. In comparison, 5G devices are still by and large limited to mobile phones.

IoT Integration

Indoor Internet of Things (IoT) has become more and more popular and it's not hard to see why. IoT has diverse use cases, playing a vital role in energy efficiency, facility management, asset management, and more. No additional construction costs are required to integrate IoT with a Wi-Fi network, making it a far more cost-effective option compared to 5G. The most common indoor IoT technologies — such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Bluetooth, and ZigBee — are all supported by Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6.

Cost Efficiency

In the 3G and 4G era, the cost per bit of Wi-Fi was only around 1/30 of the cellular network. This is little changed in the 5G era. Due to the need for licensed spectrum and a dedicated 5G core network, the cost of 5G is high compared to Wi-Fi 6, cementing the latter's position as the most cost-effective and reliable wireless solution for enterprises, big and small.

Huawei is a leader in the Wi-Fi 6 market. With AirEngine Wi-Fi 6, Huawei took the lead in deploying the industry's first enterprise-class Wi-Fi 6 network in Shanghai as early as 2018. Since then, AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 has been put into large-scale commercial use in diverse regions around the world, from Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium to South Africa, China, and India.

With unique antenna and algorithm technologies powered by Huawei 5G, AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 helps enterprises build Wi-Fi 6 networks without coverage holes, provide services with no waiting times, and achieve zero packet loss during roaming.

With unique antenna and algorithm technologies powered by Huawei 5G, AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 helps enterprises build Wi-Fi 6 networks without coverage holes, provide services with no waiting times, and achieve zero packet loss during roaming.

Cutting-Edge Technologies of Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6

Powered by an array of cutting-edge technologies, Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 is setting the market pace.

Smart Antennas

AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 Access Points (APs) feature 16 Smart Antennas — the highest number in the industry — and a unique dual-band dual-polarized co-planar antenna design, with Artificial Magnetic Conductor (AMC) antenna materials. Performance is further enhanced by Huawei’s unique four-element electronic switchgear and dynamic coverage direction adjustment algorithms, as well as beamforming technology. Together, these features enable signals from APs to move with users, doubling signal strength at the same location, and increasing coverage distance by 20%.

SmartRadio Roaming and VIP

AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 can be tailored to the service requirements of customers, using roaming processing algorithms and the practices of cellular mobile networks. Specifically, AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 APs identify and notify terminals of available idle channels before roaming: terminals therefore don't need to scan all channels, slashing roaming handover times.

Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 also goes beyond Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) technology. A hardware-based multi-queue mechanism efficiently groups users, while air-interface slicing technology slices wireless air interface resources based on service requirements. With these innovations, Hierarchical Quality of Service (HQoS) assurance for data forwarding and scheduling, as well as air-interface resource scheduling, is achieved, cutting the latency for key services to as low as 10 ms — 50% lower than the time stated in the Wi-Fi 6 standards.

Intelligent Network Analysis

Intelligent analysis revolutionizes traditional resource monitoring, collecting network data in real-time using telemetry. Learning network behavior, fault patterns are identified based on big data analytics and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, allowing Operations and Maintenance (O&M) staff to proactively discover 85% of network issues, ensuring an excellent network experience for end-users. Real-time experience visibility and fault location within minutes further enhance Wi-Fi 6 network management.

The era of digital business has arrived and all companies must now focus on building a strategy to capitalize on the new opportunities that it brings. The first step in the evolution toward a digital business is to make an enterprise connected, with mobility sitting as the centerpiece strategy. The foundation of any connected business is a wireless network. In the past, a wireless network was treated as a tactical resource by most organizations, one to be used to incrementally improve productivity, untethering employees from their desks. Now, however, the wireless network of a connected business is a strategic asset, used to create new business processes and change the way organizations interact with employees, customers, and each other. As such, building a robust wireless network using Wi-Fi 6 and IoT should be a key priority for business and Information Technology (IT) leaders, no matter their sector, no matter their size.


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