Wi-Fi vs. CBRS Private LTE: What’s The Real Argument Here?

Let’s clear out all the marketing buzz around the deployment of indoor CBRS. We want to debunk false statements made around Wi-Fi capability in comparison to CBRS.

Private LTE networks using CBRS have less device capacity and experience lower speed capability than properly managed WiFi services. Any enterprise that chooses CBRS would need a Wi-Fi network- for all the things that CBRS does not do.  Many organizations today, large and small, continue to rely on Wi-Fi because it’s reliable, secure, and delivers high-speed data capacity.

Recently, we’ve come across articles that attempt to undermine the value of Wi-Fi and its capability.

According to one article, “Wi-Fi was never designed to meet the needs of complex, large-scale commercial operations. If you want reliable, split-second communications and secure networks, bringing consumer broadband to a commercial site is not the best option, especially large-scale commercial real estate like factories, hotels and multi-building campuses.”

Dick Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks and Member of the Wireless Hall of Fame, replies with the following statement, “CBRS does have the characteristics for low latency communications for large scale factories that deploy robots needing instant communications.  For hotels, multibuilding campuses and large high rises, Wi-Fi is a much better solution because it can be made secure, has extremely high capacity for a large number of users in a dense environment, and speed capacity to satisfy Artificial Intelligence and video streaming users.

In fact, Wi-Fi 5 (in current use) has ten times the capacity of a CBRS system in both data capacity and number of users.

The article proceeds to say that since the demands of Wi-Fi have increased, it’s performance in business settings has often decreased. However, “WiFi networks have kept up with user requirements.  WiFi 5 performance has reflected a six- fold increase over WiFi 4 with a maximum data rate of 3.5 gbps with 650 Mhz of spectrum available within a building.  Contrast that with the 3G to 4G transition, that went from 2 Mbps to 100 Mbps with a spectrum availability of about 150 Mhz in a city.  WiFi 6, to be available starting in early 2020 will have a data rate of 9 Gbps with 1.6 Ghz of spectrum available.  WiFi has definitely matched its performance to user demands.” Dick shares.

It’s been expressed by several reliable sources that Private LTE CBRS is specifically designed to replace DAS systems for voice calling and cannot substitute for high speed wireless data capabilities of Wi-Fi. In fact, CBRS has been said to operate best within areas like hospitals, arenas, and stadiums in which voice service is problematic.

Wi-Fi is the core to enterprises today and continues to evolve. Globally, the demand for Wireless Broadband, specifically Wi-Fi has become a necessity across markets and will continue to meet the demands for building owners. From residential buildings, retail shops, and entertainment facilities, Wi-Fi continues to dominate the indoor wireless connectivity environment. Two studies, recently issued, proves this point.  Cisco VNI states that “By 2020, Wi-Fi will be the primary method of voice communications surpass both VoLTE and VoIP with over 50% of voice calls happening over Wi-Fi” and Netradar states that “As of Q3 and Q4 2018 the percentage of US smartphone traffic running over Wi-Fi is 73.8%.