Wireless Broadband Alliance CEO on key drivers for Wi-Fi adoption in enterprise networks

The demand for robust, reliable, and high-speed connectivity is increasing rapidly in the era of relentless digital transformation. This Help Net Security interview with Tiago Rodrigues, CEO at Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), delves into the future of enterprise networking, exploring the significant role of Wi-Fi 6E and Private 5G.

Wi-Fi adoption

What role does Wi-Fi 6E play in enterprise connectivity, and what advanced capabilities does it offer on the 6GHz spectrum?

Wi-Fi 6E offers great improvements on the spectrum and channel bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6, allowing access points to use 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz and 6Ghz bands. This will result in faster connections with lower latency, making it preferable for use cases such as video conferencing, 8k video streaming, gaming, and augmented reality and virtual reality applications.

It also allows for much wider channels, which can minimize interference in densely populated areas such as apartment blocks or office suites where multiple Wi-Fi access points are competing. Wider channels also provide higher speeds and lower latency. Using the spectrum from 2.4, 5Ghz and 6Ghz provides more channels for different APs in different channels and helps avoids interference.

Another critical advantage of Wi-Fi 6E is its capacity. As more and more connected devices are introduced into homes and offices, it’s important that these devices can be accommodated on Wi-Fi networks without slowing down performance or impacting the quality of experience for users. Wi-Fi 6E is going to be critical if we are to embrace innovative new services like the metaverse in the coming years.

How is the need for Private 5G in enterprise networks growing due to new IoT use cases, and what are the key drivers for Wi-Fi adoption in enterprise networks?

Wi-Fi has been the workhorse of wireless networking for years, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. But as the Internet of Things continues to expand and more devices and use cases get added into the mix. Private 5G provides additional capabilities into the private networking in the enterprise providing complimentary connectivity where use cases require it, such as large manufacturing facilities and campus environments. Like Wi-Fi 6E, Private 5G offers low latency and high bandwidth, but it’s also fully customizable regarding coverage area, security requirements, and specific bandwidth needs.

The key drivers for adopting Wi-Fi are its relative cost-effectiveness and flexibility, allowing networks to be easily scaled with changing business needs. It’s also highly compatible, easy to set up and manage, and offers a range of customizable security and control options for seamless device onboarding.

A study from Deloitte and Touche in 2022 found that 96% of enterprises plan on using Wi-Fi and 5G in their connectivity mix. Converging Wi-Fi 6E and 5G can provide greater network resilience, allowing users to stay connected even in areas with poor coverage or signal interference.

Large-scale deployments will also be easier to manage, as an organization that can leverage both Private 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will have much greater capacity for onboarding new devices – whether they are user-centric devices or stationary smart devices such as operating machinery, biometric scanners, or CCTV.

What challenges might enterprises face in integrating 5G with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, and how can they address them?

Integrating 5G with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure is fundamental when it comes to an organization’s digital transformation. When orchestrated correctly, enterprises will have a robust and complete connectivity solution that covers all bases, but integration is not without its challenges.

The primary challenge is perhaps ensuring compatibility between the two technologies, allowing for the seamless onboarding and offboarding of devices. Failure to achieve this will result in a ‘broken’ user journey and poor quality of experience. Enterprises can easily mitigate this by using OpenRoaming.

OpenRoaming allows devices to seamlessly connect to Wi-Fi networks without requiring users to manually log in. It works by using a common identifier that is stored on the device and shared across different Wi-Fi networks, allowing the device to automatically connect to any Wi-Fi network that supports OpenRoaming. By simplifying the connection process for users and eliminating the need for usernames and passwords, convergence between Wi-Fi and cellular connections becomes more seamless. OpenRoaming technology is particularly useful in high-traffic areas, such as airports, campuses, and public spaces, where fast and reliable Wi-Fi access is crucial.

Another potential issue is interference. Wi-Fi and 5G both have different capabilities, device preferences, and operating frequencies. These differences can be addressed by utilizing frequency management techniques such as channel assignment and power control.

Enterprises that can accelerate convergence and compatibility between both technologies will gain a strong competitive advantage in the years to come.

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