If wireless networking were a middle-school cafeteria, the cool kids would be hanging together at tables called Wi-Fi 6 or 5G. The latest generation of wireless technologies offers much faster download and upload speeds. It slashes latency. In short, it goes well beyond what the current generation can do, either in terms of a single stream of data from a device, or more important in industrial IoT networks to implement higher density of devices and reliability mechanisms.

Given all that, it’s no wonder so many industrial IoT customers come to us asking: How do we make Wi-Fi 6 and/or 5G work in our environment?

We share the excitement around 5G, as well as the potential of Wi-Fi 6. Yet we also know that when it comes to supporting industrial IoT, the best question to ask is this: What is the right combination of wireless technologies to meet our connectivity needs? That question may not seem as “cool” as going straight to the latest technologies, but it’s the best way to start building a multi-access strategy, enabling IP traffic to securely flow end to end.

Without a multi-access strategy, you could end up building a wireless connectivity infrastructure with a mishmash of vendors that drives up cost, complexity and security risks. By starting with a big-picture assessment, you can craft and execute a strategy unique to your business and your industrial IoT goals. And, yes, you can work with a vendor that is technology agnostic to bring it all to life in a way that’s coordinated, efficient, secure, and future ready.

Where to start

As you begin exploring your access and backhaul options, consider your needs in these categories: Use Case, Spectrum, Distance and Total Cost of Ownership.

Use Case

Consider which use case(s) you need to support and what each of those requires. Does connectivity need to be fully private, or can it leverage public services? Will the coverage be indoor or outdoor, fixed or mobile? Do you need to enable it for backhaul or access capabilities?

And what are your power parameters – will devices be plugged in or do they need to run on battery? These are a few questions that can help to quickly identify a potential technology candidate.


Think through your spectrum needs. Where will the solution be implemented, and what are the regulations for that country? Does the solution necessitate any specific requirement that can not be met with unlicensed spectrum? Does it require paying for private spectrum, or is it acceptable to leverage a mobile carrier’s spectrum and services?

Technology Differentiation

The throughput and distance that your connectivity infrastructure must support will dictate your requirements in several key areas: transmit power, signal penetration, bandwidth capacity and long/medium/short range communications. Remember that all the use cases call for end-to-end IP (v4/v6) traffic to smoothly flow through the infrastructure. Is there an impact of asymmetrical upstream/downstream bandwidth capacity?

Total Cost of Ownership

Assess the costs of potential solutions for each use case. Keep in mind the full range of costs, including device/infrastructure, ease of operations, and subscriptions/OpEx vs. Buy once/ CapEx. Think, too, about backward compatibility; you don’t want to implement a new solution that then requires a rip-and-replace of existing investments.

Cisco can help you think through these questions with the Industrial Wireless Technology Advisor. Answer a maximum of eight questions to identify your options and then develop a connectivity access strategy that meets your technical needs without undue cost, complexity, or security risk. At the end of the day, that’s really cool.


Henry Teichert

Product Marketing Manager

IoT Marketing