The embarrassment of riches from streaming services and many of us working from home over Zoom have launched us into a data-hungry world and with it the poignant arrival of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. Yet, our reliance on wireless data in the enterprise space will only increase as we get back to working and co-mingling in the world. Faster, higher bandwidth wireless data with lower latency and fewer dropouts will revitalize the enterprise trends we've seen over the last decade, including the expansion of the mobile workforce, the rise in working from home, the increasing data needs of international trading partners, suppliers and customers, and bring your own device (BYOD) policies.
Released in 2019, Wi-Fi 6 isn’t just faster, it’s smarter. It encodes data more efficiently, packing more information into radio waves, which means more ones and zeroes per unit of transmission. More powerful chips at both the transmitter (router/modem) and receiver (laptop/phone) end can handle the extra load, and the whole system means more (and quicker) bandwidth.
Similarly, 5G was built for data from the ground up. Where older networks bundled voice and data, 5G recognizes that voice is just more data — and not even the most demanding kind. Topping out at 10Gbps, 5G is built to handle not just high intensity but constant uptime for time sensitive applications like gaming, self-driving cars, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
They'll combine to form an always-on, high-access internet — anywhere.
Also read: Enterprise Networking Trends in 2021
Advancing Wireless Networks
5G and Wi-Fi 6 are built from the same foundation: higher data rates to support new applications and increased capacity to connect more users and devices. So it's surprising to realize they emerged from older standards that initially had little in common.
Wi-Fi, made mainstream in the early broadband era, was designed as a local area solution long before we dreamed of Netflix or cloud gaming. It was built for the MIME files of email content and the text and .gifs of rudimentary webpages.
Cell networks caught on with wide scale mobile phone use in the ‘90s; the second generation GSM standard adopted to bear the increase in voice traffic. But after the iPhone popularized the notion of the 'beyond voice' handheld device, subsequent generations of mobile networks bundled more data capability.
The new climate facing business includes practices and architectures like the industrial internet, the principles of mobile first for interface design social media, and the ecommerce revolution. The way we use phones and computers has been turned on its head. Network designers have to program and build networks that we need today that will also be future proof. That means technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G need to interconnect and hand services between signals to minimize interruption.
Today you work, live, or play in a given area; your home, office, factory, sales region, country, even the world. In that given area, advanced wireless networks means you're constantly connected to the services you need to do your job or entertain yourself. Without even having to know about it, access to the dataset you're working on is seamlessly passed from your home Wi-Fi to your cell signal to the Wi-Fi on the train or bus to the office wireless network when you walk in the door. That applies just as much for an episode of The Queen's Gambit as quarterly P&L spreadsheets.
For business, it'll mean constant and rugged uptime, with the bandwidth necessary to do what you want no matter where you are. No more, “Google Docs is taking forever to load on my phone, I'll check when I get to work.”
In an era where we are expected to be flexible, successful employers understand the workday is set by the action, not the clock. You need to be available and armed with the necessary tools whether you're at your desk, in bed, or at an out-of-state conference.
If you run a large production line, everything that's moving can report on its performance and pressure points, synthesizing a flood of data into a handy reckoner that gives you an at-a-glance overview of what might go wrong and when, helping you avoid costly shutdowns.
In the case of an industrial-level manufacturer, that's more data than today's cell or Si-Fi networks can handle. The advanced wireless network principle of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will put you one step ahead of everything going on in your company and wherever your people have to be.
Also read: The Future of Fixed 5G Networks is Now
Once we have the constant, high bandwidth uptime of advanced wireless networks, the sky's the limit. Business will look for cues about the use cases from other sectors who are already putting advanced wireless networks to good use. They’re already enjoying widespread use (and very robust testing) in gaming, for instance. Cloud gaming not only needs plenty of bandwidth, gamers ensconced in the breakneck pace of online battles can’t endure even a second of downtime.
Corporations and manufacturing are borrowing more than just the principles of always-on connectivity. The workplace is being gamified, with business practices adopting many of the behaviours and working methods from the world of games, including using virtual reality or augmented reality overlays to prototype models or visualize spaces in the real world.Shoppers can try on clothes virtually, using a product like Google Glass or an internet-connected mirror to display an item of clothing over your image. 3D modellers can design and field test buildings or interior refits using everything from materials to power and air conditioning needs to put a plan through its paces before a single brick is laid. But it all needs the constant uptime and high data intensity that advanced wireless networks will deliver.
Taking Advantage of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
Industries need to understand 5G and Wi-Fi 6 developments — it's not enough to decide on a provider and just plug in a kit. You need to carefully consider the way your teams do their jobs: where they are, where they need to be, what they need to do, the devices they need to use, and local network access conditions.
Advanced wireless networks is a blend of technologies. To get the most out of it you need to design its deployment to take maximum advantage of the smarts built into 5G and Wi-Fi 6 and their handover capabilities. The points at which services have to hand signals off to another wireless technology will take care of themselves when things are up and running, but you need to identify where they have to be situated, and what impact your growing data needs will exert on them.