Wi-Fi 6E or private cellular isn’t so much a competition as it is a matter of knowing which technology best supports the necessary use cases, applications, security, and quality of service needs.
Expanding networks has many new and appealing choices. Private cellular (4G/5G) and Wi-Fi 6E are greatly anticipated.
Wi-Fi 6E uses OFDMA, BSS coloring, target wait periods, and other technologies to increase network performance in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Thus, Wi-Fi 6E benefits from using 6 GHz, which gives 1200 MHz spectrum in the U.S. (Europe is 500 MHz).
14–80 MHz channels result (or 7 – 160 MHz wide channels). This is twice the 5 GHz bandwidth (6 – 80 MHz wide channels). Most 5 GHz deployments employ 40 MHz channels (12 such channels are possible).
Due to signal propagation issues, 6 GHz AP density will grow. 6 GHz data speeds require more APs than 5 GHz. Capital and operating costs rise. Even with 6 GHz-capable APs, you’ll require more cable runs/drops, switch ports, power, RF design (channel, power), and administration.
APs with three radios and 6 GHz capability requires additional power (PoE++/802.3bt) and multigigabit (802.3z) switches. “Do I have apps demanding such a high aggregate throughput to warrant updating my switching infrastructure?” Most say no. Power usage increases operational costs and carbon footprint.
Client devices need WPA-3 or OWE to connect to a 6 GHz network (depending on the level of security). Some Wi-Fi providers offer SSID-level WPA-2 and WPA-3 transition modes. However, device performance on such an SSID has yet to be discovered. Due to spectrum redundancy, avoiding the transition mode and using a 6 GHz-only SSID is also impossible. Thus, you must solve another roaming scenario of a device traveling between 6 GHz and 5 GHz (or vice versa) and 2.4 GHz if you support outdated devices.
Private cellular: the wireless solution? Not. Latency-sensitive use cases and crucial business applications require it. Mission-critical apps and devices will benefit from private cellular’s elimination of 6 GHz’s performance swings, mobility disconnects, and wireless interference.
One private cellular AP spans 25k square feet indoors and 1 million square feet outside. This reduces APs compared to Wi-Fi.Powered by your switching infrastructure, it has a far lower TCO than Wi-Fi. Private cellular is less prone to interference than Wi-Fi. The network controls client connection and roaming, facilitating contention for each AP and device and selecting its channel and power. Google and Federated Wireless run an SAS- spectrum access system in the U.S.
Since the core (network) chooses when a client handoff happens, this improves wireless reliability and user experience when devices roam to multiple APs. Wi-Fi devices choose which AP to connect to, at what signal strength, and when to roam. OEMs have roaming algorithms if needed.
Technology advances like MicroSlicing enforce granular QoS for each app on a device (or set of devices) to guarantee a pre-defined throughput, maximum latency, and/or packet error rate across the RAN and LAN. The network core automatically enforces application-specific QoS.
Any cellular network offers security and implicit authentication because SIM cards or e-SIMs connect cellular-capable devices (public or private).
Private cellular networks are currently available as a turnkey solution that integrates with existing LAN services, such as requesting IP addresses from the DHCP server, routing traffic depending on network parameters, or instantly detecting and prioritizing device applications.
Wi-Fi 6E and private cellular don’t compete as much as they enable different use cases, applications, and security and QoS needs. These are the most important wireless technology decisions for network managers.