Future of Wi-Fi and 5G

The era of 5G (5th generation mobile communication system), which will dramatically improve mobile communication speed and quality, is arriving soon.
While the service has already been launched in certain countries, it is said that 5G will not become widespread in Japan until 2020.
With a shift to 5G, we are expecting to see ① high-speed, large capacity, ② simultaneous connections from multiple devices, ③ ultra-low delays, and ④ power saving.
With the spread of 5G, more and more people are now expecting to see the internet being used in ways never seen before.
For example, remarkable progress can be seen in the fields of autonomous driving and telemedicine.
In addition, in machine control such as that employed at factories we are expecting to see the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming evermore present.
Furthermore, a smoother communication experience will become available to the general users we are targeting.

Under such circumstances, some may think that Wi-Fi will not be necessary in the 5G era.
In fact, the high-speed, large-capacity, low-delay features of 5G are superior to those of the mainstream Wi-Fi 4 (IEEE 802.11n) and Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE 802.11 ac).
If one simply focuses on this aspect, it may appear as if the advent of 5G will inevitably shrink the Wi-Fi market.
In addition, the concept of “local 5G” has entered the scene. Local 5G builds a small-scale communication environment based on the needs of a particular area, and there are some who predict that it will replace Wi-Fi.

However, we believe Wi-Fi will remain in sufficient demand even in the era of 5G, based on the following 3 reasons.

First of all, no matter how great a technology 5G is, it will no doubt take a considerable amount of time and money to widely spread its infrastructure.
If a carrier fails to deliver its 5G services in a timely manner, users may switch to alternative services.
For this reason, carriers must act rapidly and make large-scale capital investment in order to prevent customers from leaving.
However, due to the government’s request for carriers to reduce communication charges, this upfront investment can be a huge burden.
If so, it is thought that carriers will seek a more reasonable setup while using other communication services such as Wi-Fi, rather than covering everything with 5G.

The second reason is that Wi-Fi technology will also evolve.
While the current mainstream standard is certainly inferior to 5G, WiFi 6 (IEEE802.11ax) has already been formulated as a next-generation standard on par with 5G.
Devices that are compatible with Wi-Fi 6 are already coming into the market, and will be widespread by 2020 when 5G services become available.
Judging from these differences in specifications, we believe that demand for Wi-Fi will not necessarily decrease.

The third reason is prices.
This spring, while communication carriers have put forth various large-capacity, flat-rate data fee structures, there is still an upper limit on the number of packets that can be used, beyond which rate restrictions and additional costs will occur.
There are some unlimited plans with no upper limit. However, it is precisely because of this fact that charges are set to a high level, leaving users feeling financially burdened.
On the other hand, if one selects Wi-Fi, they will then be able to significantly reduce the packet number limit and financial burden.
If people could enjoy the same kind of service whether they use 5G or Wi-Fi 6, it shouldn’t be difficult to imagine that there would be more people going after Wi-Fi which is cheaper.

Based on the above reasons, rather than 5G taking over the Wi-Fi market, we predict that 5G and Wi-Fi will coexist and complement each other.
Wi-Fi devices are already in widespread use on a scale of around 10 billion units around world, and there are also forecasts that by 2020 the number of Wi-Fi devices will reach 13 billion.
It is obvious that the number of Wi-Fi devices around the world is increasing year by year, and there is no sign of this growth slowing down even as we are approaching the 5G era.
Based on rational and economical decisions, both carriers and users themselves are expected to employ 5G when users are on the move outside, and Wi-Fi when they are at home or in specific areas.

On the contrary, the spread of 5G means great business opportunities for us.
This is because when the stress on data communication is alleviated people will then more frequently choose to use networks.
The demand for upgrading Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi 6 should steadily increase to keep up with 5G.
In preparation for these business opportunities, we will focus on manufacturing low-cost, high-performance Wi-Fi devices and providing convenient services.
The advent of 5G has the potential to revolutionize the telecommunications industry, but we believe it is crucial that we firmly establish our position within the industry.

Also, in the long term, the discussion of how people choose to use 5G or Wi-Fi 6 based on their location suggests distinction between long-distance and short-distance communication methods.
Here, short distance could be taken to mean a few meters of data transmission to a device, and for general users this translates to the means of communication from a PC or mobile device to the nearest access point.
This short distance communication is made through either wired or wireless connection, with Wi-Fi being one of the wireless options.

The data first passes through the short-distance segment, and eventually leaves to a long-distance segment equivalent to a freeway.
Currently, this long-distance segment is handled by the trunk line network via fiber optics or by satellite communication.
In other words, data communication requires both branch line (short distance) and trunk line (long distance) facilities.
However, the features required for trunk and branch systems are clearly different.
Just as the best system for driving on a freeway is by no means the best way to drive in an alley, one would accordingly need the right equipment and features.
As such, we believe that 5G and Wi-Fi will be utilized in their rightful spaces and fully demonstrate their respective features.
It is at this crossroads that we as a company discover the purpose of our existence.