5G might not be a full replacement for Wi-Fi in all settings, but it is likely to happen in at least some industrial settings where manufacturers want greater control over latency performance of their local area networks when using sensors, automated equipment and production processes.
Ericsson, Volvo Construction Equipment, and Telia, for example, now are operating Sweden’s first 5G network for industrial use, using 5G to control excavation equipment (loaders)
The 5G network uses Ericsson commercial hardware and software, including 5G New Radio (NR) and Core products from Ericsson’s 5G Platform, at Volvo CE’s research and development facility in Eskilstuna, a municipality approximately 90 kilometers west of Stockholm.
The partners aim to develop solutions for remote control of construction machinery and fully automated solutions.
It has been a couple of decades since serious questions were raised about the respective roles of Wi-Fi and mobile networks as platforms for consumer data access. But the debate is emerging again.
Two decades ago, observers debated whether Wi-Fi was a substitute for mobile access. The latest debate flips the question. Now we debate whether mobile is a substitute for fixed network internet access, or whether 5G can replace Wi-Fi.
To be sure, many are sure that will not happen on a widespread basis, just as Wi-Fi and mobile became complements, not substitutes.
But it seems almost certain that, in some use cases, 5G networks will displace Wi-Fi networks. Private networks using 5G seem attractive to some industrial customers because of the built-in latency performance, for example. Some auto manufacturers also are looking at 5G as a replacement for Wi-Fi.
Others believe 5G could replace consumer home internet access, as yet the latest form of mobile substitution. To a large extent, the feasibility of using mobile platforms to replace fixed internet access, or 5G to replace Wi-Fi, hinge on tariffs and bandwidth.
Until 5G (especially using millimeter wave assets; spectrum aggregation and other tools), it would not have been feasible–either for reasons of capacity or prices–to consider using mobile networks as a full product substitute for fixed networks.
Bulk access at low prices is among the key issues. Many would still argue that mobile substitutes (including fixed wireless) cannot match the cost-per-bit profiles of fixed networks. But mobile data prices have been dropping steadily, though some fixed network services continue to hold an order of magnitude advantage in cost-per-bit.
Of course, all cost-per-bit metrics are statistical. The effective price per bit actually depends on the actual amount of data consumed by any particular customer.
Others argue that price, capacity and speed of 5G networks could in fact offer competitive offers for many customers.
The most-reasonable assumption is that 5G will displace Wi-Fi or fixed networks in specific use cases, and not generally. There will be some industrial settings where 5G might well substitute for Wi-Fi.
Some consumers will find they can “cut the cord” on fixed network access because mobile offers enough speed and usage, at the right price, for the actual use cases some customers have.
In other cases, 5G fixed wireless might offer a full product substitute for some households.