Derek Peterson talks future of 5G and Wi-FI
In this Q&A with Derek Peterson, chief technology officer at Boing Wireless, the executive continues to spread his message of network and spectral convergence in the context of the parallel evolutions of Wi-Fi and 5G.
Q: Boingo obviously has a well-established history and expertise with large scale Wi-Fi deployments. As the IEEE 802.11ax standard gains traction, and is followed by further enhancements in coming iterations of the standard, how does this inform Boingo’s mid- and long-term strategy?
A: 802.11ax presents exciting opportunities for our industry. Networks will be significantly faster and less congested and we’ll see new features like target wake time scheduling, which will improve battery life. 802.11ax is also making a stride towards a key topic in Wi-Fi: addressing dense deployments. All of these fit well with Boingo’s convergence strategy of deploying hyper-dense networks that deliver a seamless connected experience—whether you’re in a mega stadium, crowded airport, military base or other large venue.
Q: As we saw with the most recent Olympics, there’s at least some interest in using 5G to enable new experiences in large venues like stadia. Is 5G essential to deliver these experiences or will enhancements to Wi-Fi at some point provide a comparable level of service to the end user?
A: To meet the demand of a new connected generation—and accommodate applications like IoT, autonomous cars, AR/VR and artificial intelligence—we’ll need all available spectrum and technologies. It’s not a case of 5G or Wi-Fi, it will be a case of 5G and Wi-Fi. At the Olympics a combination of 5G fixed wireless and Wi-Fi was used to deliver coverage inside the moving transport vehicles. This kind of convergence is necessary and will be the norm for many use cases. Other technologies, like shared spectrum and the advancement of solutions like CBRS/OnGo, will also come into play. It’s about deploying the right technologies that will address the right use cases for an optimal connected experience. The 5G world will require network convergence and will involve licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum.
Q: As it relates to in-building connectivity, the roadmap for 5G doesn’t seem particularly well-established. Does Boingo foresee Wi-Fi remaining as the go-to source of in-building connectivity for enterprises; if so why?
A: 5G specifications address dense areas, which directly applies to many in-building use cases. Higher throughput, lower latency, larger bandwidths and bringing the radio closer to the edge via smaller cells are all the basics of 5G connectivity. As the 5G standards evolve it will address more in-building connectivity and deployment challenges as it relates directly to the enterprise. Wi-Fi is a well-established solution for the enterprise—it fits very well and will continue to be a go-to source for in-building connectivity.
Q: In the U.S. at least one operator is planning a commercial 5G launch to serve a residential fixed wireless use case. Given Wi-Fi’s low cost, ease of use and ubiquity, is this particular approach necessary? Does it more serve the economic interests of operators rather than the needs of consumers?
A: On the journey to a fully connected 5G world, the case for convergence of spectrum and technologies is only getting stronger. Most likely any 5G residential fixed wireless use case in the home will require some Wi-Fi connectivity to connect all the Wi-Fi devices that are prominent in the home. This is convergence 1.0—having all the technical solutions available, working in conjunction to meet the needs of consumers. As we move down the convergence roadmap we will start seeing true convergence with interoperability. It is important to remember that 5G specifications are a work in progress with multiple categories and use cases. We have to see how it plays out—at this time, we only have 5G NR non-standalone and standalone specifications defined and are missing some of the key use cases for interconnectivity and NR unlicensed specifications.
Q: With LAA and LWA we saw standardized interworking of LTE and Wi-Fi. Will Wi-Fi be as essential to 5G as it is for LTE particularly as a mechanism for data offloading or network load balancing?
A: Wi-Fi is as key and as essential as LTE for a successful 5G deployment. Convergence of both Wi-Fi and LTE is crucial to achieve multi Gbps speeds, reduced latency and mobility. 5G concepts recommend convergence via multiple technologies rather than just LTE or Wi-Fi. Moving services to the edge is also important.
Q: In terms of density, the level of infrastructure required for both indoor and outdoor 5G coverage is shaping up to be a massive investment that will take years to reach a high-level of penetration. In the context of interoperability between cellular and Wi-Fi, is there an opportunity to leverage the installed base of Wi-Fi to facilitate more coverage more quickly?
A: The industry has seen many interoperability advancements between cellular and Wi-Fi. There is definitely a great opportunity to leverage Wi-Fi to facilitate more coverage. Most consumers are doing it today and the operator of many of the networks are only passably involved. The industry can and should do more to bridge this gap. The introduction of Passpoint to automatically use cellular credentials to seamlessly and securely connect is a great solution that is used today and will continue to expand in use. In addition, new technologies like MulteFire, and other co-existence and interoperability of Wi-Fi and LTE technologies will continue to become stronger. To enable devices to use multiple paths—whether it’s LTE, Wi-Fi or other swaths of spectrum—we’ll look at technologies like Multipath TCP and Multipath QUIC to provide an improved quality of service to the user.
Q: With Passpoint, users have the opportunity to enjoy seamless connectivity that, from the user perspective, doesn’t make which network is connected a concern. Will this convergence carry-on with Wi-Fi implementations? Are there any challenges, technological or otherwise, that could impede that seamless experience as 5G is built out?
A: Passpoint provides a true seamless and secure connectivity experience on Wi-Fi networks just like cellular. The technology is widely adopted by service providers and will continue to carry on in the 5G era and with newer Wi-Fi implementations like 802.11ax.
Q: What other factors is Boingo considering as it relates to the parallel advancements of 5G and Wi-Fi. What are some of the perhaps under the radar opportunities and challenges and how can those be respectively realized and overcome?
A: Boingo has a long history of overseeing successful upgrade cycles, as we’ve moved our networks from 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G. 5G will be no different. Our focus will remain on deploying next-gen networks that provide a great customer experience. Newer technologies like 802.11ax, CBRS, Multipath TCP, mmWave and NFV/SDN are among the solutions we’re looking at for the connected world of the future.