Why 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will coexist, according to Qualcomm

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At CES 2019, TechRepublic Managing Editor Bill Detwiler spoke with Qualcomm’s Sanjeev Athalye about how the Wi-Fi and cellular will compliment each other, much like in the days of 3G and 4G. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Bill Detwiler: How are Wi-Fi 6 and 5G going to be complimentary?

Or is there a point where, for cellular technology, millimeter wave technology like 5G will supplant the need for Wi-Fi 6?

If you can get the speeds provided by 5G into nearly every device that you wanted to have connected, then maybe you don’t need the routers to propagate the signal. So talk a little about that.

SEE: CES 2019 news, photos, videos, and more (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Sanjeev Athalye: So, as with cellular in the Wi-Fi space, Qualcomm is a leader and we announced about a couple of months ago, last month actually, that we have Wi-Fi 6 ready products rolling out. So in some sense, like the previous conversation, the Wi-Fi and cellular complimentary nature is not very different from the days of 3G and 4G.

Of course as we’ve progressed in the cellular generations, the speeds, the reach, and the ability to carry a lot of data tonnage has improved, and that continues with 5G. Of course on the Wi-Fi front, improvements are being made to scalability, to outdoor performance, and to higher peak data rates. I think that complimentary nature will remain, but maybe there are some cases where 5G will bring capabilities such that one doesn’t have to think about, Oh, what’s the Wi-Fi password, every time you get out. Those factors are, I think, inherent security. Of course, Wi-Fi 6 and the adjacent standards improve the security of Wi-Fi so that you don’t have to worry about rogue access points as much as we do today.

So from that standpoint cellular, as long as you can get a true unlimited plan, it reduces the anxiety of having to find a Wi-Fi access point and connect to it. So in those cases, maybe cellular can supplant instances where Wi-Fi is used, but I’m not saying that it’ll supplant Wi-Fi entirely.

SEE: CES 2019: The Big Trends for Business (ZDNet Special Feature)

One of the things that 5G enables and terms of true unlimited data plans is that it reduces the cost per bit to operators. So whereas today some unlimited plans are not truly unlimited, there’s a data cap, and many people don’t really reach that data cap, so for practical purposes it is unlimited. I think with 5G it should enable operators to raise that fair use cap even higher so an end consumer doesn’t have to think about, Oh, am I on cellular or am I on Wi-Fi? Am I consuming my data bucket or not? In those cases, I think it’ll reduce the cases where people switch to Wi-Fi off of cellular.

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