The extraordinary synergy of wi-fi and 5G in enterprise networks

It’s Wednesday afternoon. A severe thunderstorm is forecasted to roll through your suburb in the next hour. As it nears, your electricity goes out. Fortunately, your cell phone still works. That’s because the 5G technology powering your phone remains intact, giving you a reassuring sense of security and an open line of communication with weather updates, friends and family during the storm.

This same principle can help enterprises remain operational and connected during all kinds of internal and external “storms.” Network reliability and availability are among the many reasons why enterprises are augmenting Wi-Fi networks with 5G. The benefits are extraordinary. 

As an IT leader, you deal with balancing benefits and budgets within the rapid pace of technological change every day. However, enterprise network reliance on Wi-Fi technology has remained unchanged for a long time; Wi-Fi technology itself was invented in 1997. But now, that’s about to change—and do so significantly. Today, 86% of networking executives like yourself believe that enterprise network changes in the next three years will transform their organizations and 79% believe it will transform their industry.

Impending network changes are due to the integration of wireless 5G together with Wi-Fi technology to redefine a new standard in enterprise networks. This combination promises to deliver newfound capabilities and next-level competitive advantages. The list of benefits shows us why the technology duo of 5G and Wi-Fi in organizational networks is so compelling.

6 reasons for 5G and wi-fi

As individuals, we know and love 5G for powering our connectivity, mobile device-to-mobile device, and person-to-person. In enterprises, Deloitte calls 5G a novel “force multiplier” to Wi-Fi technology. Here’s why.

Improve capacity and latency 

Enterprise network traffic is growing, and new data-hungry applications require faster and faster data speeds. 5G helps meet these rising needs and deliver better performance. By delivering lower latency, 5G supports applications–such as artificial intelligence, video conferencing, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), real-time communications and mission-critical systems–that demand near-real-time data access and/or use real-time edge device data. 

For example, real-time analytics are used in retail stores to enhance in-the-moment customer experiences. To power those analytics and help enhance customer experiences while customers are still shopping in the store, applications mandate near real-time data access and speeds. 5G networks help enable that speed and access.

Enhance reliability

Wi-Fi networks rely on unlicensed spectrum which can be used by a wide range of devices, and used by anyone, literally anywhere. The result is that there are usually a lot of transmitting devices contending with one another for access to the airwaves. This increases delay and delay-variability, lowering throughput speeds.  5G usually relies on either licensed spectrum or shared-access spectrum in which users are only other known telecom users. Thus, 5G allows more reliable access to the over-air spectrum, enabling reduced delay performance and more predictable throughputs. 

Combining Wi-Fi and 5G in the same service area can allow less critical applications to operate on Wi-Fi, while other delay-sensitive and capacity-sensitive applications can operate on 5G. 

Optimize cost 

The growing pool of 5G-enabled applications is creating new ways to achieve efficiency gains and cost optimization. Consider the manufacturing environment. Automating routine tasks helps to improve efficiency and lower operating costs. Especially in capital-intensive manufacturing, 5G private networks can help bound assets and provide mission-critical data in real or near-real time to mitigate the occurrence of significant costs from unplanned downtime.

Bolster security and gate user access 

Across all industries, bolstering security is of increasing importance. To help, 5G enables geofencing to gate usability by an area of the building or to allow locational tracking. These 5G capabilities improve access control and network security. For example, accounting offices often require usage restrictions on sensitive, financial data. Applications that run on 5G networks can restrict usage to specific personnel.

Increase coverage and boost mobility 

5G is the perfect partner technology for Wi-Fi in enterprise applications that need mobility like remote work, off-site field workers and IoT networks for smart factories. For example, autonomous mobile robots (AMR) are used in aircraft robotized assembly. Often, the AMRs must traverse from building to building, indoors and outdoors and across large spaces in a site. Private 5G provides advantages over Wi-Fi from a mobility and coverage perspective.

Enable redundancy 

Integrated deployment of both Wi-Fi and 5G in enterprise networks can provide redundancy. This improves recovery in the case of network downtime, helping to ensure uninterrupted connectivity. Disruptions from human error, cybercrime, natural disasters and system failures are realities faced by businesses of all sizes and types—and disruptions incur steep, irreversible costs. One study, for example, estimates that network outages in North America alone cost businesses $700 billion a year.


One size does not fit all

While the benefits of 5G and Wi-Fi are applicable across all businesses and industries, a one-size-fits-all approach does not apply. Organizations have unique requirements based on infrastructure, budget and specific use case or application needs. Thus, deployment specifics vary in how and where 5G is used to complement and augment Wi-Fi networks.

Accelerating forward

As the organizational network infrastructure evolves, one thing is certain. 5G will be an integral and capability-enhancing “force multiplier” in a brief time, helping to redefine and elevate organizational competencies. For IT leaders that deploy it, augmenting Wi-Fi networks with 5G is one fast-paced change that can also accelerate and improve business outcomes—on sunny and stormy days alike.

View this short video to learn more about 5G-powered business transformations.

Learn more about Intel and enterprise 5G here.