At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) show last week in Barcelona, it was interesting to see the device makers roll out mobile handsets with the latest wireless technologies: 5G and Wi-Fi 6. I’d like to focus on Wi-Fi 6 for the moment. This upgrade will provide faster speeds and more efficiency to wireless networks, and make batteries last longer on connected devices.  Wi-Fi 6 shares some technical foundations with 5G, and both will enhance the mobile broadband experience in the future.

Explosion of IoT and Ultra-Low Latency Applications
Seeing the different Wi-Fi 6 supported handsets from different vendors on display at MWC is a reminder of the growing capacity of devices that will be attaching to the network. Not only more smartphones are coming, but also an explosion in the number of IoT devices that will connect via Wi-Fi. This includes industrial and manufacturing IoT devices, sensors, security video cameras, thermostats, and more.  Just like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 will also provide more speed and more capacity.  It is the ideal wireless technology to provide better performance in congested areas, from offices, to IoT-heavy shop floors, to stadiums, to your own device-packed home. It adds performance across the board, which enterprise networks will need in the near future, if they don’t already.

Just like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 will also provide ultra-low latency and ultra reliability for mission-critical applications, Because of the deterministic nature of Wi-Fi 6, as noted in our technical white paper IEEE 802.11ax: The Sixth Generation of Wi-Fi , it will enhance those applications that need to process a very high volume of data with an extraordinarily low tolerance for delay. The reliability is an important step for Wi-Fi 6 and is not just exclusive to applications that require low latency but all applications on a Wi-Fi 6 network. In addition to reliability, Wi-Fi 6 extends security for access through the support of WPA3. The new version of WPA provides additional protection for devices accessing the Wi-Fi network. WPA3 will make it harder for hackers to crack a user’s password and will limit what hackers can see even if they’ve uncovered the passcode.

5G and Wi-Fi 6 are made to work together

As Chuck Robbins said in his keynote, “Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are made to work together,” Cisco is very excited for the next wave of wireless access. Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will provide better bandwidth, more capacity, and lower latency. Both will enhance the mobile broadband experience. When we look at the timeline, many enterprise networks will begin Wi-Fi 6 adoption before 5G, as Wi-Fi 6 devices and access points will start rolling out this year. Metro 5G will begin to appear late this year in selected cities, with full ubiquitous coverage expected in the 2021/2022 timeframe. As both technologies will become widespread in short order (from a planning perspective), it’s time now to consider the bright future ahead of us, when Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will be available to complement each other.

How Cisco will embrace these two wireless technologies

Cisco is investing in solutions to increase Wi-Fi adoption, while exploring the intersection of Wi-Fi & LTE/5G. For starters, Cisco has teamed up with Samsung to make the promise of Wi-Fi 6 a reality.

At Cisco’s campus, we tested pre-production Samsung Galaxy S10 Wi-Fi 6-equipped phones against test units of Cisco’s new Wi-Fi 6 access points. The results were great. Of course, you find issues with all new standards when you unleash them in the real world, and the first Wi-Fi 6 are no different. But this is where Cisco can make a big difference for our customers. While competitors rushed early access point models to market, we are taking a more measured approach, to make sure we have stability and interoperability with the new standard, while building upon the technology with innovation that will ease our customers’ transition to this new technology.

I am very excited for the possibilities of these two new mainstream wireless standards. We are committed to bringing the best possible technology to our customers, and to providing a seamless transition and user experience for all users, service providers and our device ecosystem partners.

New wireless capabilities always mean new market opportunities, and we will continue to build on our wireless technology and add our own innovation to complement the standard and enable the network to be your conduit for business success. Stay tuned.

For more information, please visit our Wi-Fi 6 Page.



Greg Dorai

Senior Vice President & General Manager, Cisco Networking Experiences - Campus Connectivity

Networking Experiences