Integrating Wi-Fi and 5G For Seamless Connectivity

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (“WBA”), founded in 2003, is comprised of members throughout the world that include ATT, Comcast, T-Mobile, Sprint, Charter, Boingo and Cox, in addition to many of the major international service providers including BT, SingTel, TATA, Rogers and China Telecom. Its mission is to lead in “enabling of wireless services that are seamless secure and interoperable”. To that end, it has developed a number of approaches to integrate WiFi into the 5G Core Network and has worked with the cellular standards organization (“3GPP”) to implement these alternatives.

With the development of 3GPP Release 16, due out in December, 2019, which will establish the 5G standards for mobile devices, the WBA has developed a detailed set of alternatives to integrate WiFi with cellular services as a peer service. This has occurred because, as Fierce Wireless has pointed out, 70% of mobile data traffic is communicated over WiFi networks.

In our view, managed WiFi services can provide a seamless user experience to those users of smartphones such that the user will not know what service is carrying the data to and from the smartphone. By defining the 5G standards, including backward compatibility to 4G/LTE, the 3GPP has established rules for use of a wide swath of frequency spectrum, including the newly announced 6 Ghz spectrum for WiFi.

For indoor connectivity, which accounts for 80% of all mobile data communications, the implementation of this integration means that multifamily residential building owners that implement a managed WiFi service will have solved the connectivity issue in buildings that have little or no cell services.