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Parallels Between WiGig and 5G

Jan. 22, 2014, 6:45 a.m.
ABI Research

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It is interesting to note the similarities between how Wi-Fi and cellular technologies are developing.  In a very general, rough way, the following are comparable:

  • 802.11n and LTE
  • 802.11ac and LTE-Advanced
  • 802.11ad and 5G

The first comparison can be looked at as a starting point for the comparisons.  In going from 802.11n to 802.11ac, 802.11ac uses the 5 GHz spectrum band in order to utilize larger channel sizes (from 20 MHz or 40 MHz for 802.11n to 80 MHz or 160 MHz for 802.11ac) to achieve faster data rates.  Similarly, LTE-Advanced allows for faster data rates by using larger channel sizes - even with non-continguous spectrum - among other methods.

With 802.11ad, a very different technology is used using much larger ultra wideband channels, a much higher spectrum band (60 GHz).  WiGig was chosen to be this technology, and though it is very different from Wi-Fi (from 802.11b to 802.11ac), it is still a part of the Wi-Fi family.  In moving from 4G (LTE and LTE-Advanced) to 5G, a similar jump is made.  5G will partly rely on a new technology as well as much larger channel sizes.  Just like WiGig, it is easier to find these ultra wideband channels in higher-frequency spectrum that isn't as crowded.  5G cellular will use spectrum bands in the tens of GHz, both below and above 60 GHz - though not 60 GHz itself.

Let's look at the way WiGig and 5G are similar:

  • Much higher-frequency spectrum used
  • Shorter range compared to previous protocol/generation
  • Much larger channel sizes used
  • The use of antenna arrays
  • The use of beamforming (for different reasons)
  • Small cell topology for access relative to previous protocol/generation

However, while WiGig exists today, 5G cellular technologies will not exist commercially until sometime after 2020.