Networks Europe Issue 19 January/February 2019 - Page 24

24 WIRELESS NETWORKS A further consideration is that Wi-Fi itself is also evolving. The next generation of Wi-Fi will offer data rates of up to 9 Gbps. However, to maintain coverage at the higher speed, additional Wi-Fi access points using ground-based Cat6A Ethernet cabling, or fibre optic cabling will need to be installed. This means that no matter whether it’s in office buildings, sporting venues, shopping centres, hospitals or schools, cabling will not go away. provide greater bandwidth but the distance the signal can travel will be extremely limited compared to 4G. The impact on infrastructure As the distance the 5G signal can travel is shorter, to have the same coverage as 4G would require many times the number of mobile towers that exist today. Not only would this be challenging to install, but also expensive. This is where the integration with Wi-Fi becomes critical. While carriers will certainly install new towers in suburban areas; the roll-out of 5G will include Wi-Fi hotspots installed by mobile providers in dense urban areas to reduce the total cost of upgrading networks to 5G. Not only will this ensure that users’ devices can switch between mobile and Wi-Fi signal seamlessly and automatically, but it’s also a lower cost option for network providers. Each of these Wi-Fi hotspots will require wireless access points to be installed, all of which will rely on the installation of cable. The future of cabling While in the short term, 5G presents an opportunity for those providing and installing cabling, in the longer term, there may be some threats to the cabling market to consider. The introduction of 5G and its Wi-Fi hotspots will create a bigger surplus of bandwidth, but users will generally not be utilising more data on their existing devices. Instead, there will be more wireless devices that are connected to the network directly, including so-called ‘Internet of Things’ devices. It’s expected that some years down the road, it will no longer be necessary to have several different cables running to every workstation in each office building. Whereas current standards suggest that you should have a cable outlet for each device, such as a PC, VoIP phone or printer, in the future more of the devices used in the workplace will be wireless. That said, this is some years away, and while there will be less cabling to workstations to install, many more wireless access points would be required to support the increase in wireless devices. Cabling is vital to success 5G promises attractive-sounding increases in data speed and while added bandwidth will enable devices to be connected directly to the network for a faster and ‘better’ performance, it’s actually the maintenance of a more consistent network service that will make a difference to users. 5G users will see better service coverage across a wider area, fewer places with ‘poor signal’ and fewer instances of slow connection due to network congestion, but this will be a direct result of integrating traditional cellular networks with Wi-Fi access points connected to fill the gaps. So, rather than killing LAN networks, ground-based cabling will in fact be vital to the success of 5G. n A real-world scenario So how does this translate into a typical commercial application, such as an office building? As previously discussed, it will be difficult for a 5G signal from a cell tower to penetrate the building – even foggy weather and tree foliage can reduce the penetration of 5G signals in new high-frequency spectrums. So, if you’re inside an office, the 30GHz frequency will struggle to connect to your mobile phone. This means that when you’re indoors, to use 5G, your device will actually need to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, using copper or fibre cabling as the backhaul connection to the carrier’s network. As well as office buildings’ own Wi-Fi networks, to ensure service availability, mobile network providers will therefore also be looking to put hotspots in these locations.