Private 5G can solve some enterprise problems that Wi-Fi can’t

While service providers might regard private 5G as a competitor to Wi-Fi, short-term its enterprise use will be supplemental.

5G light trails
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Private 5G cellular deployments fit the needs of enterprises for high-speed, low-latency connections between large numbers of devices, and some say the technology could replace Wi-Fi, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Outside of particularly unusual use cases, private 5G networks are best thought of as a supplementary to Wi-Fi and not a competitor, experts say, even though that’s clearly an ambition of the carriers. For example, Mo Katibeh, an executive vice president at AT&T Business in charge of products and platforms, said 5G is inherently secure and doesn’t face the interference problems Wi-Fi does, so eventually it will challenge Wi-Fi.

“On a continuum of time, absolutely [licensed use] will eventually displace Wi-Fi,” he said. “When you think about the security aspects of this, the ability to create a much more personalized, low-friction environment for workers becomes a great choice.”

Yet Katibeh concedes that, at the moment, 5G and Wi-Fi are more likely to be found working in concert than otherwise, which rings particularly true in light of the nascent state of public 5G coverage in the U.S. What’s more, there has even been a pattern developing around how the two technologies work together.

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