The next generation of wireless is going to do far more than connect people and machines. Yes, 5G, Private 5G, and Wi-Fi 6 can augment existing enterprise networks and provide the necessary coverage, quality of service (QoS), and resiliency companies require.

By Garsen Naidu, country manager for Cisco South Africa

But these technologies are also enabling a whole new crop of emerging digital use cases. They include:

* The integration or convergence of information technology (IT) systems with operational technology (OT) systems for more efficiencies;

* Management of multiple network segments through a single pane of glass;

* An enhanced experience for employees in office buildings, at home, and on the go;

* More efficient and sustainable energy usage in offices;

* Greater optimization of office space and costs; and

* Safer and more secure working environments.

Wireless isn’t just for connectivity anymore; it’s become a foundational service for digital transformation, like a fourth utility powering devices, experiences, the optimal use of workspaces, the flow of traffic, health, safety, and more.

More Bandwidth for More People and Things

Wireless networking will be a foundational technology for enterprises. A 2020 study of 2,600 business and technology decision makers in 12 industries across Europe, Asia, and North America found that 79% are convinced 5G will have a significant impact on their organisations, with 57% saying it will be “revolutionary.”

Features like faster connection speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, higher device capacity, and lower latency are empowering businesses and smart cities to create new experiences using 5G networks. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi 6 is growing as a wireless connection option. A new forecast predicts that there will be 628 million Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E hotspots globally by 2023. Wireless is also being driven by the dramatic growth of IoT; wireless is forecast to account for 30.9 billion IoT connected devices throughout the world by 2025.

Wireless networks are going to be an increasing enabler of various emerging digital use cases, complementing cloud services, edge networking, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Big Role for Service Providers and Cisco Partners

A new study has found that 92% of business leaders agree that their companies must deploy more digital solutions and process automation in the workplace to survive and thrive. But 86% cited barriers like the complexity of integrating and managing multiple processes. This is a huge opportunity for service providers along with Cisco and our partners to provide connectivity, simplified management, managed services options, and identity services to augment an enterprise’s existing cyber security.

Studies by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) see the major growth in wireless revenues by service providers coming from enterprises and Internet of Things deployments, instead of from consumers. Already, service provider architectures are changing to accommodate these wireless network use cases.

Use Cases Define the Criteria for Wireless Network Selection

Before enterprises choose between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, they will define their relevant use cases. A university campus will have different requirements and limitations than cars on the open road. It’s important to define:

* The nature of the IoT devices that will be used (e.g., chips, sensors, tablets, OS, firmware);

* The coverage area (e.g., a building, a large university campus) and what spectrum is available;

* What applications will be used (e.g., premise-based ERP, cloud services, hybrid cloud);

* Network reliability service level agreement (SLA) required (e.g., five nines or 99.999%, network availability); and

* Financial considerations (e.g. overall cost, CapEx versus OpEx).

How Wi-Fi 6 and 5G Work Together to Support Enterprise Use Cases

Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G technologies have common underpinnings. They’re designed for higher performance, higher capacity, and tighter security than other generations of wireless technology. They are also capable of scaling to support numerous IoT devices.

Wireless Technologies are Accelerating Business Transformation

With wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, the role of the network is changing. It’s not just for connectivity anymore; it’s become a foundational service that powers everything from devices to experiences to the flow of work, traffic, health and safety.