Over the past 20 years (some time after consumer Wi-Fi was launched about 1997) there has been a recurring–if now relatively muted–theme in the wireless access business: is Wi-Fi a substitute for mobile access? The 2006 launch of Fon showed the degree of commercial interest.
In more recent years, U.S. cable operators have built huge networks of consumer hotspots. The biggest footprint is Comcast’s Xfinity network, with some 18 million consumer hotspots in operation.
Wi-Fi offload offers an obvious answer: sometimes.
In the 5G era we may see the question asked in reverse: “under what circumstances can 5G become an effective substitute for Wi-Fi?
That might well be the answer in the 5G era as well: sometimes. The most-compelling use cases are likely to arise in enterprise settings where sensor connections are more important than mobile phone connections or desktop data connections, but all three must be supported.
In consumer markets, since Wi-Fi is the default “inside the home” distribution platform, the use of 5G fixed wireless is almost certainly going to be an example of mixed use. Since most consumer communications, video entertainment and computing devices have Wi-Fi interfaces, Wi-Fi is likely to remain the in-home connection, even if the access link to the home is 5G.