17 May 2022

Private 5G and Wi-Fi - when to use which?

Deploying Wi-Fi coverage in large industrial sites, ports, airports, mines, warehouses and logistics sites and stadiums and venues is like watering the desert with a garden hose. A private mobile network using LTE or 5G is your answer - with its greater coverage, clean spectrum and superior protocols it can flood your site with reliable, secure and high-quality coverage - and also deliver superior backhaul for Wi-Fi where it’s needed. This is for both indoor and outdoor usage but absolutely the case for large outdoor spaces. LTE or 5G based private mobile networks can offer a low cost and high performing solution to provide connectivity for large spaces where Wi-Fi is either technically or not practically possible.  

While cellular and Wi-Fi technologies have many differences and similarities, in general Wi-Fi seems capable of being successful as a LAN technology for less demanding security and mobility applications while cellular is emerging as the key technology for WAN or LAN with more deterministic and demanding security, mobility requirements.  



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Fig 1. Suitability of Wi-Fi and Cellular to different use-cases 

The moment is now

There has been a lot of industry buzz around 5G, private wireless connectivity, industry 4.0, etc over the last couple of years but in 2021 we moved from it just being just industry talk to where this is a reality with LTE or 5G private mobile networks being deployed to help organisation across multiple verticals to drive operational efficiencies and accelerate digital transformation. These private mobile networks have allowed these organisations to enjoy wireless freedom with wirelike reliability and security. 

We are not implying that LTE or 5G private mobile networks are better or going to replace Wi-Fi based networks. Whether cellular based networks will replace Wi-Fi has been a discussion since the advent of 3G and early Wi-Fi. The answer is that there is no perfect wireless technology for all use cases. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages and has unique use case value. Wi-Fi and cellular are different, but the end customers do not care about these differences. They can co-exist and actually add value to one another with the two technologies will continue to complement each other.  

Cellular and Wi-Fi?

I would also like to highlight scenarios where it is not either Wi-Fi or cellular but that they coexist and the convergence of the two technologies into a single radio network backbone. For some industrial sites, ports, airports, mines, warehouses and logistics sites and stadiums and venues sites Wi-Fi is the correct solution for their indoor spaces and a cellular based private mobile network is the correct solution for their outdoor spaces. Indeed delivering “Wi-Fi over 5G”, where 5G is used to replace wired backhaul or mesh networks is a key joint use-case. You will have seen the recent announcements by historically Wi-Fi centric vendors such as CISCO and HPE about their new solutions for private mobile networks to be sold separately or together with their existing Wi-Fi solutions.  

For digitalisation to take place in organisations operating industrial sites, ports, airports, mines, warehouses and logistics sites and stadiums and venues they requires reliable, secure and high performing wireless network connectivity and for the people, plant, equipment, materials etc across their large indoor and outdoor spaces site to be connected to this wireless network to provide lots of data. A private mobile network using LTE or 5G is an ideal solution for this and can help these organisations accelerate and grow their digitalisation strategy. 

Private networks: a new user guide by techUK

Our #techUKPrivateNetworks campaign week celebrated the publication of a new user guide techUK has produced, to help prospective private networks customers, across enterprise and the public sector, understand the key benefits of adopting advanced connectivity in their organisations. The guide helps users as they formulate a business case for investing in enhanced private networks, and the key success factors. We also shine a spotlight on several case studies. 

Private networks: a techUK user guide

Gain a clear understanding of the benefits of adopting private network technology for your business with this techUK user guide.

Download for free

Private network ecosystem: Management model - A new techUK guide

techUK's Advanced Communications Services Working Group created a new guide for organisations considering building out services using 5G networking technology entitled 'Private network ecosystem: Management model'

It introduces and describes the principles of neutral hosts, and then goes on to describe the architecture and ecosystem which supports the provision of shared services, particularly in the context of high capacity/low latency applications, which will drive 5G deployment. While this paper is focussed on 5G, many of the principles of neutral hosts, and the discussion of edge versus core provision will apply to other technologies such as Wi-Fi, including Wi-Fi 6.

Private network ecosystem: Management model

A technical guide by techUK for users of private networks, outlining how the ecosystem is managed. It outlines the architecture of edge native applications in the architecture of the ecosystem, the value chain and operating models, resilience, operations, and the role of Neutral Hosts. 

Download for free


The techUK podcast: Making the case for Private Networks

In this episode of the techUK podcast, we explore the topic of private networks for enterprise, specifically, how we can accelerate the deployment of private networks from beyond the testbed phase and drive adoption across industry and the public sector.  

The episode covers the key challenges for enterprise customers that the telecoms sector can address with advanced connectivity services, including 5G and Wi-Fi 6, and how we, the supplier base, can effectively deliver on the benefits of private networks. 

Sophie James, Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy at techUK, joins a conversation with Simon Parry, CTO at Nokia EnterpriseCatherine Gull, Consultant at Cellnex and Dez O’Connor, Senior Manager at Cisco. Sophie also catches up with Mike Kennett, Senior Consultant & Head of Regulatory Affairs at Freshwave


Guest blog by Nanda Menon, CEO, Athonet UK - Follow Athonet on Twitter and LinkedIn 

To read more from the Future Private Networks campaign week check out our landing page here.