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Will 5G be able to replace enterprise WLAN (Wireless Local Area Networks)?

With 5G promising faster speeds and efficiency and already being available in many key business hubs across the US, including Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Diego, there has been plenty of buzz around how its rollout can benefit both businesses and consumers alike. This has led to many asserting that 5G will be a viable replacement for WiFi in offices and other commercial environments, as well as educational facilities, hospitals and shared apartment complexes.

Despite the claims being made, we shouldn’t just assume that 5G will be the answer for all enterprises who are currently using WiFi. Though 45 and 5G will certainly have its place in enterprises, despite the hype, the technology still isn’t likely to be integrated into most laptops and tablets. As a matter of fact, there are numerous reasons why 5G won’t simply replace WiFi for enterprise LANs – for now, at least, or maybe not ever.

To determine why 5G (or even 4G) won’t be able to replace LAN for enterprises just yet, TelcoCompare examines the technology below…

How wireless is used by enterprises

When referring to wireless connections, there are two types; LAN and WAN. LAN (Local Area Network) is often used to refer to the connection for a singular site, such as an office building, a hospital, school, or even a supermarket. In a similar vein, WAN (Wide Area Network) refers to a network that runs over wide areas, connecting multiple sites such as retail stores and warehouses in different cities.

In some locations LANs is used across several locations across a campus network. This includes colleges and universities, corporate sites and new property developments. Wireless LAN is used by enterprises of all shapes and sizes for various reasons, but the primary one is for connecting devices to a business’s internal servers or the internet. These include desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Why is Wireless LAN (WLAN) beneficial to enterprises?

Why is LAN often the preferred internet connectivity choice for enterprises? It can bring a number of benefits related to its speed and versatility. Here are some of the benefits of LAN compared to WAN connections:

  • Affordability: as WAN requires a substantial investment to deploy, setting up and maintaining a LAN connection is far easier and more cost-effective.
  • Ease of use: LAN has great versatility, as well as being easy to use and set up. There is no limit to the number of devices you can connect, they can be added, removed and moved with little hassle, and a larger LAN can be easily created by joining multiple LANs across locations.
  • Faster speeds: a typical LAN connection can easily reach or exceed speeds of 1 Gbps, which is several times faster than the speeds achieved by WAN.  

Due to the aforementioned benefits, LAN can help to boost a business’s productivity levels by enabling them to access all applications and data in one place and provide faster services to customers.

Using 4G and 5G for wireless LANs

Due to the development of technologies such as 4G and 5G, a lot of buzz has been created around the debate of whether they can be used as a replacement for WiFi for LAN connections. This is particularly in regards to connecting mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. However, this isn’t something we can see happening anytime soon, and for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, 4G and 5G connections are complicated to set up, and many businesses do not have the budget or resources to invest in them. Typically, with WiFi, you will only need some Ethernet wiring and access points to get it up and running, whereas 5G (and even 4G) connectivity requires core networks, control software and in some cases, SIMs.

On a similar note, incorporating 5G into buildings is not going to be an easy process, and is unlikely to be the standard. This form of connectivity has different requirements to WiFi, particularly in terms of power and fiber backhaul. This is different to the access points (APs) needed for WiFi.

As mentioned previously, it isn’t the norm for 4G and 5G capabilities to be built into laptops and many other computing devices, making it more difficult for enterprises to replace LAN with this connectivity type. This is due to the fact that they will cost more to buy, meaning less companies are going to want to incorporate this technology into their products.

Lastly, WiFi is so commonplace that it has come to be expected. With this in mind, the likes of tenants, contractors, employees and guests to your site will want (or need) to continue to use a WLAN instead.

So, will 5G replace enterprise LAN? For now, at least, the answer is no. Though 5G is no doubt exciting, it won’t be at a level to replace Wireless LAN until buildings and computing equipment has 4G and 5G capability as standard. However, there will be plenty of opportunities provided to enterprises with the roll out of 5G…

July 15, 2019