We may not have said it out loud until now, but the pandemic has resulted in one of the largest tech booms in modern history. It has led to an awakening around 5G for wireless network operators and equipment suppliers.
I know we’ve all had big plans and high hopes for 5G for quite a while. But when Zebra hosted a TED Talk back in 2019 with Jeff Lorbeck from Qualcomm’s Connected Smart Systems division, we weren’t talking about private 5G networks as the way of the future. And we certainly didn’t believe they were the only way operators will be able to monetize 5G (as we do now). Private 5G was an edge use case at best. Yet, today, all we talk about is how private 5G will be the bridge to mobile edge computing for multiple industries and the big money maker for operators. That’s because the pandemic has changed our perspective on everything. It has provided clarity.
Shaun McCarthy, Vice President of Worldwide Sales for the Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group (MIG) at Cisco, completely agrees.
5G didn’t end up killing Wi-Fi like we thought it would a few years ago, just like video didn’t kill the radio star like we thought a few decades ago. It’s possible for seemingly competing technology platforms to co-exist.
In fact, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 must co-exist in most enterprise environments from here on out, as the teams at Zebra and Cisco are now demonstrating. We can no longer allow a traditionalist mindset around wireless technologies – or the assumed value of 5G – to hold us back from doing what we must to move forward. Sticking with status quo network structures isn’t going to reduce IT risks or keep costs under control. Instead, it could introduce more risk by inhibiting your business’s ability to digitalize and automate operations at scale – or at all.
That’s why, on a press panel at Mobile World Congress 2022, Shaun and I personally made the case for why these two wireless technologies should not be competing for budget anymore by explaining how they complement one another in modern business. This notion that Wi-Fi is always needed inside the four walls and cellular networks are the only option outdoors is outdated. We can’t think of these as either-or options. The acceleration toward digitalization and automation during the pandemic proved that, and the continued convergence of IoT devices across enterprises is reinforcing it. Likewise, the idea that one type of wireless technology is better than the other is a limiting belief.
In fact, Shaun confirmed on our latest episode of the Your Edge podcast that 100% of the projects the Cisco team works on are some combination of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. If you’re curious about how 5G and Wi-Fi need to play together in your sandbox moving forward or how the “promise of private 5G” is playing out in the real world – on the front lines, in uncarpeted areas – then tune into the latest Your Edge podcast episode: