Making Sense of the IoT Connectivity Landscape
Compared with Wi-Fi 6, which relies on radio waves and antennae in a small area, 5G is a cellular technology that can cover longer distances. As opposed to large cell towers, 5G networks will be rolled out using so-called small cells that are much closer together and tightly linked. 5G is about 10 times faster than 4G and will offer gigabit speeds.
But because it operates on a high-frequency spectrum called millimeter wave (mmWave), 5G can’t travel through walls or closed windows like 4G can. And some analysts say 4G might speed up as 5G moves forward.
Then there’s another emerging technology known as Bluetooth 5, an upgrade to the current wireless technology for linking peripherals such as headphones, keyboards or mice. It’s been in the iPhone since version X and in the newest headphones such as the Bose Noise Cancelling 700.
Bluetooth is the current standard for all home, car or office environments for connecting peripherals. Wi-Fi 6 is likely to deliver high bandwidth internet in homes, offices and campuses.
5G use cases are a lot more complicated. Some experts say that 5G will eliminate the need for Wi-Fi altogether, as carriers will at some point be able to offer 5G in the home for all internet and broadband services. On the distant horizon, 5G (or perhaps its successor) will be a key piece of smart city and autonomous vehicle management.
More near-term use cases are already being tried out in urban areas and in specialized locations such as NFL stadiums, usually where you have the greatest demand of users in need of immediate and uninterrupted access.
Expect to see even an broader range of wireless and cellular technologies, including licensed and unlicensed, to address an unlimited scope of applications, according to Scott Raynovich, founder and chief analyst at Futuriom.com. Industrial use cases tend to involve connectivity along the 5G spectrum including LTE-M, narrowband IoT and fixed broadband, while Wi-Fi 6 offers close-range opportunities.
An interesting work in progress is called OpenRoaming, which allows instant access to 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks. Initially proposed by Cisco, the system uses privacy identifiers similar to hotspots, enabling users to move from a 5G network to Wi-Fi and keep sessions active and secure.
In the end, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are complementary services, Mathias said, then added: “But while I’d love to tell you this is all going to be a simple process, it’s not.”