With 5G’s capabilities set to cover every nook and cranny of residential, commercial, and industrial requirements, there’s no doubt it’s going to give legacy network infrastructure a run for its money.
But what does this mean for the mainstay connectivity types that we all know and love? Will 5G swoop in, dominate the market, and leave broadband and Wi-Fi out of a job?
Or is all the hype creating unrealistic expectations?
It’s a tricky one. Here’s the answer.
Will 5G replace Broadband?
Broadband—a physical, fixed, high-bandwidth connection that can run over optical fibre, radio, or twisted pair wiring—is something we’re all familiar with. For most end-users, it’s par for the course; most homes (88% of them, in the UK) and businesses use some form of broadband connectivity.
And while fixed wireless broadband isn’t a new term, it’s going to be a completely new experience once fixed 5G wireless hits the scene. In terms of household connectivity, it could blow broadband out the water.
For example, take Netflix’s new HDR (high dynamic range) quality content: HDR video streaming requires at least 25 Mbps of stable connectivity. With 5G promising data rates of at least 100 Mbps, it’s easily the more powerful home connectivity option.
However, this level of service won’t be available until 5G reaches its maximum potential. Considering the challenge operators are going to face with deploying 5G base stations, this is at least a couple of years away.
And the minds behind broadband tech innovations aren’t going to be twiddling their thumbs in that time. There’s bound to be some serious technological advancements in the fixed broadband market over that time; likely to even rival the power of 5G.
One such area could be the ‘last mile’—the final stretch of a fixed network before it reaches an end user’s device. It’s been a thorn in just about everyone’s side for a very long time indeed, considering that it’s generally made up of century-old twisted pair wires. Expensive and difficult to upgrade, it’s seen as a network bottleneck, causing delays and disruptions no matter how wide the rest of the band is.
Enter fixed 5G wireless.
Fixed 5G modems or antennas can bridge the gap that spans the ‘last mile’. Operators can build fibre connections from telephone exchanges towards residencies or businesses, then have the connection swap to fixed 5G wireless instead of running over the inefficient twisted pairs. Not only will this eliminate last mile bottleneck issues; it’ll remove the need to rip up lengths of road and infrastructure, saving plenty of time and money.
Rather than conquering its predecessor, there’s potential for a beautiful synergy between 5G and broadband.
Will 5G replace Wi-Fi?
Like broadband, Wi-Fi is a well-known connectivity staple, prominent in most homes, businesses, and public spots. Both forms of Wi-Fi—fixed broadband and cellular-based—are incredibly popular. Billions upon billions of devices currently depend on Wi-Fi connectivity; and the number skyrockets every year.
Is its popularity enough to stave off a challenge from 5G? Perhaps not—but its dominant market position isn’t just down to its ease-of-use and prevalence.
There’s an ironic problem with the massive data rates promised by 5G. More bandwidth and capabilities will lead to more users doing more with their connectivity; which will then inevitably lead to more traffic and network congestion.
Enter Wi-Fi offloading!
Otherwise known as mobile data offloading, Wi-Fi offloading is a technique used by MNOs to deal with the network congestion that arises in areas of intense Internet usage; like a town centre at lunchtime or residential areas in the evenings.
By implementing SIM authentication into already existing Wi-Fi networks, operators can steer devices to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, reducing the amount of data carried on cellular bands and freeing bandwidth for other users—a task made easier by the fact that most user devices are designed to prefer Wi-Fi connections over mobile. It’s how South Korea keeps up with the online gaming and video streaming demands of its data-hungry population. And its uptake is sure to keep growing here in the west.
Especially with the arrival of 5G. Even now in its infant stages, 5G is bound to bring a huge surge of data traffic with it. That’s why, rather than steal the spotlight, it’ll flourish alongside Wi-Fi, with Wi-Fi offloading covering its weak spots.
Combining connectivity to unlock the best of both worlds
So while it’s true 5G’s arrival will shake up the industry, it’s not going to do so by completely replacing fixed with mobile. It’s going to spur healthy competition and lead to innovations that’ll rival fifth-gen mobile. And savvy providers that combine 5G’s potential with its connectivity rivals will unlock some seriously powerful results.