The Coming Of A Faster Wireless Network Ecosystem
Faster wireless network speeds are finally coming. It is going to be optimized for both the LAN and the Cloud, with standards that boost efficiency and lower latency. This will bring both a faster cellular and local network, thru 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technology. The general understanding is that this will deliver faster speeds, but a lot more as well. It may even replace wired ethernet connections in some cases. The excitement this brings are the development of new hardware and software applications which will deliver the best user experiences for years to come.
Let’s talk about ecosystems. Many people are already familiar with this because they use multiple devices at home. The ecosystem is the interconnectivity of these devices. Smartphones, IoT appliances, laptop, desktop, Smart TV, intelligent lights and speaker assistants are just some of these devices. The low latency and high speeds Wi-Fi 6 brings will allow communications of these devices at home and in the office to go more smoothly. With Gigabit Internet already available as a service, Wi-Fi 6 is the ideal way for homes and offices to leverage that speed which has an estimated throughput of up to 10 Gbps. For a typical home user’s ecosystem, the Internet speed will be like it was boosted on steroids.
For mobile users, 5G will provide better access to the network with less latency. More streams for data in dense deployments are the main advantage of 5G cellular, much like what 4G LTE already delivers. The main difference is that 5G uses smaller cells and use shorter wavelengths. These require closer installation of cell towers within a distance of no more than 1,000 feet apart. While rural areas will not immediately benefit from 5G, it will be urban areas that get the best of these services. With throughput of data up to 20 Gbps, 5G will enable the most demanding bandwidth hungry applications.
The exponential growth of Internet users in the last 2 decades is unprecedented. This is leading to more use of the Internet and it has very much become a part of daily life. Business thrives on the Internet as much as news, entertainment and other forms of digital media. Simple web browsing and e-mail are fast and easily accessible on the Internet. Now the demand are for more interactive and engaging content. This has put a lot of pressure on networks to upgrade their equipment to handle this surge. However, network operators and ISP (Internet Service Providers) are playing catch up to continue to provide faster service but the growing demand for new applications are putting a strain on bandwidth.
The problem that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 address is the bandwidth issue. Currently we just don’t have enough of it to enable fast low latency data transfer. The demand is growing for more bandwidth because of streaming video in UHD 4K resolution. This is also needed for cloud gaming, streaming content (music and video), AR/VR/MR applications, cloud computing, virtualization, content delivery networks, IP multicasting and group collaborations. When watching video on Gigabit Internet with Wi-Fi 6, there will be less latency because there will be less buffering of data streaming from the network. Buffering is like a temporary storage location for data coming from the network. Less buffering means less delays and you get smoother frame rates and high resolution video.
Many industries will also tremendously benefit from faster wireless network connectivity. In medicine, transmitting image scans across the campus network in a hospital will be instantaneous. Lower latency will also allow surgeons to operate remotely with more precision and accuracy. Remote operators will have an easier time working with machinery. Esports transmission over the Internet will have higher frame rates without the jitter and lag. In post production, editing workstations can connect faster wirelessly to the server or the cloud without the usual ethernet or fiber cable. Social influencers can stream faster to their followers in real time. Self-driving car sensor communications with surrounding networks will provide safer and more reliable operation. These are just some of the examples of the possibilities.
Here is an example of the how much bandwidth you need for streaming video. Using Netflix as an example, you will need the following bandwidth for watching in certain types of resolution.
SD (up to 720p) — minimum 3 mbpsHD (1080p) — minimum 5 mbpsUHD (2160p) — minimum 25 mbps
This is an estimate time (t) calculation for downloading a UHD 4K movie from the Internet that is about 100 GB (f) in size. If you have a Gigabit Internet connection, let us assume a data transfer speed of 1 Gbps (i). This will actually require two parts, 1) Data transfer from the Internet to the router and 2) Data transfer from the router to the device (the following is just an estimation, not actual streaming download time).
t = f / (i/8) = 100,000,000,000 bits / (1 Gbps/8 bps) = 800 secondsTotal Time (Est.) = 13.3 minutes
At 800 seconds that would be approximately 13 minutes to download the entire movie. After 13 minutes the actual movie is now running from local storage and will be much faster at higher resolution as well. If this were streaming it will play immediately over the Internet without downloading it first. My example did not take that into consideration. The wireless router also does not have a buffer size of 100 GB, so it must transfer the data to the device continuously after it reaches its buffer capacity.
According to some benchmarks, 25 Mbps is the minimum bandwidth required for streaming 4K video. That is more than covered by the Gigabit Internet and Wi-Fi 6 speed. On 5G it is also more than able to handle a higher bit rate.
Now here is the caveat. The features of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are not automatic, like flipping a switch from your telecom provider or ISP. You will need to buy products that support the technology. That means the smartphone must be 5G enabled and your wireless router access point has to have Wi-Fi 6 support. Unfortunately this requires buying a new device since it is not implemented in software. If it were, then it would be as easy as doing an update from the network. This requires devices with the hardware circuits to process signals for 5G and Wi-Fi 6. For smartphones, you will need 5G support which your telecom operator provides. It is probably best to upgrade to a new smartphone. A trip to a local computer store is where to find the latest Wi-Fi routers. Another thing to look for when shopping is the Wi-Fi Alliance logo for Wi-Fi 6. If the product is certified for Wi-Fi 6 it will have this logo.
Is 5G and Wi-Fi 6 really necessary? That is like asking if we need air to breath. If faster Internet is required for high resolution video, then the solution is faster Internet speeds. I am not a millennial (>25 years), but I have about a dozen devices that I need to connect to the Internet. The average person may have at least 2 devices they connect to the Internet at home e.g. smartphone and personal computer. Power users and gamers have > 3 devices, including a game console. With all these devices connecting to the Internet, bandwidth can quickly get saturated. At public Wi-Fi spots the Internet can be slow because of too many connections. 5G was not meant to totally replace the existing wireless infrastructure yet. This means you can still use your 3G or 4G LTE smartphones. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are just the start to even faster networks which can connect more devices and bring instant information without any hesitation.