WBA calls for industry cooperation to harmonize Wi-Fi with 5G

wi-fi cafe (pixabay)
The WBA's new report provides an analysis of the varied approaches for integrating cellular and Wi-Fi networks. (Pixabay)

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA)—whose board includes AT&T, Boingo Wireless and Comcast—is calling on the industry to cooperate on approaches to Wi-Fi integration with 5G through trials, common policy framework and engagement with key industry bodies.

Toward that end, the WBA just published a report that outlines the options and alternative approaches available for combining access over Wi-Fi-based and cellular-based networks. Titled “Unlicensed Integration with 5G Networks,” the report defines three alternative approaches to integration: access centric solutions, core centric solutions and above-the-core centric solutions.

The WBA is calling for the ecosystem to work together to put these different approaches into practice through trials and engagement with other key industry bodies. The report describes some of the latest capabilities specified in 3GPP Release 15 and currently being studied as part of 3GPP Release 16 for integrating Wi-Fi into the 5G core network. It also provides detailed descriptions of alternative multi-path protocol approaches that have been used to provide improved experiences when devices are simultaneously connected to cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

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Notably, the WBA white paper recommends and advocates integration solutions that treat Wi-Fi as a peer of the cellular network, believing that core-centric and above-the-core centric solutions will become the two main integration methodologies used by the industry based on the rate of market adoption.

“As the largest internet access capability, Wi-Fi is a legitimate part of the 5G technology landscape. In fact, Wi-Fi’s own generational leap to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is already demonstrating that Wi-Fi can support the delivery of some 5G use cases today, in a way that is economically viable,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA, in a press release. “The WBA is advocating a future of collaboration and integration of Wi-Fi and 5G cellular technologies to realize their full potential, but the industry must work together.”

The paper offers a practical guide to each different way of integrating Wi-Fi with 5G networks while also inviting the ecosystem to become involved in trials to make it more effective to develop this technology in the next year once standards have been defined, he added.

WBA’s membership includes seven of the top 10 mobile operator groups by revenue and technology companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Huawei Technologies, Google and Intel. The WBA board also includes BT, Cisco, Intel, KT Corporation, Liberty Global, NTT DoCoMo and Orange.