Accessing the network – Part One
Wi-Fi is dead. That’s right, I said it. This time around we aren’t just talking about 2.4 GHz being dead, but rather the entire network access method known as Wi-Fi. Simply put, it has ceased to be useful and will be replaced by 5G cellular moving forward.
If you believe that, then the marketing has gotten to you and you should probably just move on and ignore the rest of this post.
The cellular carriers today want you to believe that Wi-Fi is dead so they can get you to move to the new shiny hotness known as 5G, or mmWave, or whatever else marketing folks can think up to try and put a positive spin on things. How many times today do you still find places within your office, or dorm, or university lecture hall that the cellular signal simply isn’t strong enough to connect? This is exactly the point. The point the team at Aruba, a HPE company is trying to make to customers when they start asking how 5G will affect us moving forward. Maybe I should say how it WON’T affect us moving forward. This was a hot topic of discussion led by Chuck Lukaszewski, VP Wireless Strategy for Aruba at Mobility Field Day 4 (#MFD4) recently.
Let’s break this “Wi-Fi is Dead” claim down to the technology shall we?
We all know that the propagation of 2.4GHz signal within a building is much stronger than that of 5GHz as it is a simple explanation provided by good old physics. The wavelength of a 2.4GHz waveform is approximately 4.7 inches (12cm), while that of a 5GHz waveform is about 2.3 inches (6cm). With the wavelength of the 2.4GHz signal being longer, it more easily penetrates walls and other objects over that of a 5GHz signal. Pretty simple to understand right? So if that’s the case, how then do these 5G “experts” expect the new “core” 5G spectrum of 2.5 & 3.5-4GHz to get farther inside a building (from the outside) than what the current sub-2GHz cellular frequencies do? I’m waiting. If you said they won’t, then you are correct. Yet, so many ads out there continue to talk about how you can move your entire home over to 5G and stop worrying about Wi-Fi altogether.
Ok, I understand your point but what about DAS and this new CBRS stuff that is coming soon to a building near you to solve the indoor cellular challenges?
As you can see in the slide above, even those options have their own drawbacks based on technology or price. I have worked with many customers over the years across multiple verticals that have heavily (and I mean HEAVILY) invested in things like DAS systems to solve their issues. Guess what? They still didn’t fully solve the problem. The fact of the matter is that many of these systems (even the neutral host ones) still have issues getting reliable signal and capacity into the areas where they are needed the most. At the end of the day, organizations are still investing in Wi-Fi to provide the de facto primary method of network connectivity, even to the point of offloading cellular connections to it for things like Wi-Fi calling. I suspect if you knew how much data was truly being offloaded to your network by the cellular company, you would probably want to start charging them for access. 🙂
Does all of this info make you think that maybe Wi-Fi isn’t dead? Good. If you knew me at all, you would know that I would never make such an outlandish claim. With this being the case, how can organizations make use of their existing investments into wireless networks, to easily and securely onboard devices into the network? Check out Part Two of the “Wi-Fi is dead?” series.
Check out the video below for a primer on the ongoing debate before moving on to part two!