Are 5g routers safe

Networks

Regardless of whether it was about the smart factory or the digital farming of the future - for a long time it seemed in the public discussion that such scenarios could only be realized with the new 5G mobile technology. Because as soon as it came to mobile data and radio, the protagonists only knew one solution: the new mobile radio standard. And preferably with a private 5G network right away - the only real solution.

There is hardly a company that does not deal with 5G. In an IDC study on IIoT in November 2020, 46 percent of the companies surveyed stated that they were flirting with 5G and 13 percent were already using 5G in projects. 66 percent of these companies even want to set up private 5G networks.

WiFi (6E) as a 5G alternative

In view of this euphoria, another wireless technology was almost forgotten: WLAN. But this could change fundamentally with WiFi 6 - the IEEE standard 802.11ax - for local radio networks. Speeds in the Gbit / s range are becoming a reality and latency times should be in the single-digit millisecond range.

In addition, MU-MIMO is supported to improve the use of multiple antennas. And with OFDM, if there are many simultaneous network accesses - for example in scenarios with many wirelessly networked IoT devices - the delay in data transmission could be reduced and thus the data throughput increased. In addition, more clients can communicate with one access point at the same time and thanks to fast roaming, switching between two WLAN cells is no longer an issue - if the client supports it.

However, none of these improvements can make up for one shortcoming: In densely populated Europe in particular, the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands used for WLAN are very close - mutual interference cannot be ruled out. But there is a prospect of improvement here. The European Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) has approved the technical and regulatory framework for the use of the 6 GHz band by WLAN. With the release of around 500 MHz in the lower range of the frequency band, twice the previous frequency spectrum will then be available for WLAN. Devices capable of WiFi 6E (Enhanced) are required to use this spectrum.

WiFi 6E upgrade with problems

Industry experts expect the corresponding devices to come onto the market in Europe from mid-2021. Opinions are divided on the question of whether upgrading existing WiFi 6 equipment to the enhanced standard is possible and useful. Some propagate that this is possible without any problems, since - in a notebook, for example - only the WLAN module needs to be replaced, provided that it corresponds to the 2230 M.2 slot. Others, however, warn against such an upgrade path. They argue that the potential of the new 6 GHz technology cannot be used without adapted antennas.

Detached from the upgrade question, the mood in the manufacturer warehouse is euphoric in view of the ECC decision. At Lancom, for example, people rave about a "historic step on the way to the wireless gigabit society, especially since the last spectrum expansion was more than 15 years ago".

According to the manufacturer, initial tests with WiFi 6E indicate transfer rates of up to 3.6 Gbit / s, with latency times of less than 2 milliseconds. The whole thing is paired with more stable connections, since the 6 GHz band is not overcrowded like the other WLAN frequency bands. In addition, WiFi-6E networks should enable a multiple of today's user numbers. If all of these properties really apply in practice, WiFi 6E should be particularly exciting for IoT or VR applications. It could also turn out to be a serious, cost-effective alternative to local 5G campus networks in industry.

Private 5G vs. WiFi 6E

And the cost factor in particular is likely to spoil the joy of a private 5G network for some decision-makers. A number of providers point out that 5G hardware is carrier-grade equipment, which is correspondingly expensive compared to enterprise hardware. Ultimately, the user has to build his own cellular core architecture in a private 5G network. This alone already costs a good six-figure amount or has to be rented from a carrier. Then there is the purchase of antennas and other equipment. Furthermore, unlike WiFi, existing network equipment cannot simply continue to be used with 5G. Last but not least, calls cannot be made as usual in private 5G networks, which in turn requires an additional public network for the carrier on a campus, according to the WLAN protagonists.

But it will take some time before WiFi 6E has its baptism of fire in Europe. The ECC's proposal has yet to be approved by the EU Commission. This is expected in March 2021. The corresponding legal requirement must then be published in the Official Journal of the EU, which should take around two months. The member states then have six months to implement the requirement in national law.