By Billy Bischof, Sales & Marketing Manager, Orange County Convention Center
What is 5G?
Simply put, 5G is the 5th generation of cellular networking. Though it’s still very much in its infancy, 5G promises to achieve crazy-fast speeds – which is exciting! Think of extremely-fast speeds helping you blow through your data plan five times faster!
As mobile carriers work to test and develop standards over the next several years, more information will become available to the consumer. What we know now is that 5G will utilize high-frequency bands within the wireless spectrum, and these bands don’t travel as far as the bands that we currently use. This means that penetrating walls and buildings could be challenging, and cellular equipment manufacturers and carriers will need to significantly increase the antenna hardware (think thousands throughout a city) for proper support.
Much like Winter in Westeros, 5G is coming, and it will provide great benefits to the end-users. But will it replace WiFi as we know it? Not quite.
- Devices – WiFi usage has been increasing year-over-year, and there are huge numbers of existing and future devices that only have WiFi capabilities. Desktops, Laptops and many IoT devices will still need WiFi connectivity.
- Subscriptions – Cellular carriers almost exclusively rely on the subscription service model, requiring your device to have the ability to jump on a carrier network. WiFi works under many other models that are not subscription based.
- Customizable Control – Without WiFi, you sacrifice customizable control, and the network becomes a one-for-all model. When it comes to security, a one-size-fits-all model is not sufficient. WiFi can be segmented to meet the needs of many.
- Investment – Businesses have invested heavily in WiFi infrastructure and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. For 5G to reach its potential, carriers would have to invest a lot of money in the Fiber backbone to support and complement it.
- Penetration – 5G, which uses high-frequency bands, will not penetrate deep into buildings. The new 5G build-outs will require many more antennas (small cell) for blanket coverage, increasing costs and access into buildings. Unless you can install a distributed antenna system (DAS) or build out excellent small cell coverage, you’ll be hard pressed to receive a good signal. WiFi helps to bridge the gaps where cell coverage lacks.
The bottom line is: the future of 5G looks bright, but there are still many unknowns. Are carriers going to provide significant upgrades to the fiber infrastructure to support it? Will we start seeing more reasonable subscription plans from the carriers that allow us to use all this data? I think we’re several years away from knowing the answers. And while this is exciting new technology that we can look forward to, it will not be replacing WiFi.