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Blueprint call for 5G and WiFi6 convergence

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty


The convergence of 5G and WiFi6 and 6E can provide advantages for chip makers but there are some key issue to address, says a report from the Wireless Broadband Association. This is critical for enabling new breed of services, applications and experiences such as Industry 4.0, AR/VR, Connected Cities and Edge Computing.

“The convergence of WiFi6 & 6E and 5G is a win-win scenario for end-users, cellular and WiFi players,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA. “The continued development of 5G and WiFi networks presents almost limitless potential for industry 4.0, residential connectivity, connected smart cities and more, but convergence is critical for all parties if we are to truly capitalize on the potential this technology has to offer. This paper provides a path forward for regulators and industry bodies that stands to benefit all, giving stakeholders the ability to cost-effectively improve performance while also retaining control and maximizing their return on investment.

The report from the WBA was developed with mobile carriers, WiFi providers, telecom manufacturers, and its own 5G Working Group. Led by Broadcom, Cisco, Intel and Orange, the report highlights areas of concern.

These include 5G and WiFi convergence architecture, Access Traffic Steering, Switching and Splitting (ATSSS) and End-to-end QoS (Quality-of-Service) with split control of 5G and WiFi6 at 2.4GHz and 5GHz with 6E streams at 6GHz over the radio access network (RAN). The report also highlights the need for WiFi-only devices without a SIM to be able to access the 5G network.

“Historically, cellular and fixed/WiFi services have been delivered and consumed as independent offerings, limiting the service experience for customers,” said Howard Watson, Chief Technology and Information Officer at BT Group. “With advances in convergence, the dividing lines are beginning to blur, and that’s great news. Customers can increasingly focus on what they use their connectivity for, rather than how it is delivered.” 

Next: WiFi6 and 5G convergence in Industry 4.0


“End-users and the industry at large stand to gain massively from convergence between WiFi and 5G, but only if we, as operators, infrastructure and device vendors, act together to fully define and deliver these new converged solutions,” added Watson at BT.

Converging 5G NR and WiFi access in Industry 4.0 dramatically improves connectivity and traffic steering on the factory floor across both accesses, allowing more use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In the Smart City, 5G NR and WiFi access can interoperate to create uninterrupted connections, and traffic to data-hungry edge applications can be more easily managed.

The report also sees the use of both technologies in the home with a mix of traffic options in residential applications to boost connectivity and provide a more well-rounded end-user experience.

For public and enterprise WiFi, convergence Increases the deployment possibilities for a more seamless user experience and maintain better visibility and overall control of the networks.

Potential convergence architecture enhancements include a tighter coupling between WiFi access and the 5G gateway functions for trusted WLAN as well as the interworking requirements between 3GPP-defined Access Traffic Steering, Switching and Splitting (ATSSS) multi-access functionality, and existing solutions adopted on devices.

To enable end-to-end QoS, the paper emphasizes the importance of providing QoS differentiation within WLAN for 5G flows and analyses the issues associated with mapping 5G QoS to WiFi6 and 6E QoS. The paper further explores how to support WiFi-only devices without SIM capability in the 5G system. It highlights the need to define non-SIM-credential based authentication methods over WLAN access for private 5G networks.

Convergence considerations are under active development by industry regulators and standards bodies, including 3GPP and IEEE. The WBA is also working on this during this year, with 5G-WiFi RAN Convergence in Private 5G networks which will start in Q1 2021.

“Operators are increasingly utilizing the high capacity, low latency and low-cost of WiFi 6/6E to control the elevated capital expenditure associated with 5G systems rollouts,” said Gabriel Desjardins, director of marketing for the Wireless Communications and Connectivity Division at Broadcom. “The ubiquity of WiFi and WiFi only devices, with an active installed base of more than 13 billion devices, provides a low-cost coverage option for the delivery of standalone 5G services. This is particularly true for indoor environments where WiFi is the access technology of choice that can support new and emerging use cases such as mobile broadband access, AR/VR experiences, industrial IoT, distance learning, telepresence, to mention just a few. The seamless and secure integration of WiFi access technology in 5G systems is a game changer for operators, over the top providers and their customers alike.”

The WBA board includes AT&T, Boingo Wireless, Broadcom, BT, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, GlobalReach Technology, Google, Intel, KT Corporation, Reliance Jio, SK Telecom and Viasat.

The report is available here

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