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Bridging Wi-Fi and 5G in direction of a converged RAN (Analyst Angle)

5G, in contrast to earlier generations of requirements, shall be greater than only a mobile radio definition. As an alternative, it will likely be a broad platform which integrates a number of radio entry applied sciences (RATs) in unlicensed, shared and licensed spectrum. Wi-Fi generally, and its newest modification Wi-Fi 6 (based mostly on the IEEE’s 802.11ax specs), will play a vital position in extending top quality, excessive velocity, low latency wi-fi connectivity, particularly indoors. To this point, the 3GPP has dominated the specs of the 5G customary with few contributions from the IEEE.

Present challenges for interworking

On this context, the WBA has partnered with the NGMN to determine areas that have to be addressed to assist make the very best of each applied sciences and embrace Wi-Fi within the 5G specs—if not in launch 16, then in future releases. The NGN has an extended historical past working with the 3GPP. The 2 organizations issued a preliminary white paper to stipulate the present challenges for RAN convergence:

  1. Wi-Fi-only gadgets can not connect with the 5G core
  2. Lack of interface to allow a sure degree of community manageability and coverage management between 5G core and Wi-Fi networks
  3. No mechanism for a consumer to route visitors over a number of entry sorts in an clever method, making optimum use of the out there connectivity

Within the final 18 months, the WBA has performed a lot work across the position of Wi-Fi within the 5G imaginative and prescient. It has laid out the deserves of Wi-Fi in IMT-2020 necessities in a sequence of white papers.

In 2018, Orange and British Telecom (who’re energetic in each the WBA and NGMN) agreed to create a joint job power and line up some aims, in addition to necessities to deal with the present gaps for Wi-Fi and non-SIM gadgets to turn out to be an integral a part of the 5G community. We spoke to Kevin Holley (BT) and co-chair of WBA-NGMN Taskforce, Klaus Moschner from NGMN workers, in addition to Tiago Rodriguez, Basic Supervisor for the WBA.

Tiago Rodriguez informed us: “The WBA is absolutely dedicated to help and drive the rollout of Wi-Fi 6 for carriers, cities and enterprises to cost-effectively present extra capabilities, protection and capability, primarily indoors, to deal with 5G use case necessities. Now it’s time for carriers to speed up their HetNet methods.”

Kevin Holley mentioned “The RAN Convergence white paper requires trade unification for 5G and Subsequent Era Wi-Fi, as we consider that convergence at a community degree between these two applied sciences is crucial. Convergence will enable the complementary capabilities of each RANs to be leveraged to supply seamless community providers, bringing main advantages to mobile operators, enterprise Wi-Fi and public Wi-Fi resolution suppliers.”

The WBA and NGMN are common contributors at 3GPP occasions and can present the 3PP with suggestions.  As “Market Illustration Companions,” they’ll present steerage on market dynamics and necessities to the 3GPP in a ultimate paper to be launched in Q2 2019; nevertheless, this can be too late for necessary suggestions to be submitted to 3GPP for launch 16 since these require an official work merchandise. However, some minor suggestions could also be included in time for launch 16. The next chart exhibits the 3GPP growth course of:

Picture courtesy of Qualcomm.

Community manageability and coverage management

Operators want to realize visibility into and management of what’s taking place within the Wi-Fi RAT, particularly within the enterprise and public Wi-Fi areas.  Kevin Holley indicated: “The collaboration between NGMN and WBA identifies a lot of rising alternatives and use instances that the trade can profit from, but additionally highlights the important thing challenges which should first be addressed.”

There’s a want to have the ability to dynamically allocate sources from each radio entry applied sciences in response to the wants and altering necessities. For instance, a typical interface between Wi-Fi and 5G can be utilized to set Wi-Fi bandwidth devoted for 5G service visitors, configurations and QoS settings for a Wi-Fi slice devoted for 5G providers and gadgets allowed to entry the devoted Wi-Fi slice. Such an interface can even allow enterprise Wi-Fi distributors to set insurance policies within the 5G core for dealing with visitors, or request community slices, for sure enterprise customers and/or functions.

Challenges of mobile/Wi-Fi integration

Full interworking between 5G and Wi-Fi has by no means actually materialized, regardless of a number of efforts and a few restricted progress. Some challenges to Wi-Fi/mobile integration embrace:

  • Untimely Wi-Fi Choice, which occurs when gadgets connect with a recognized Wi-Fi community with out first checking for higher mobile and Wi-Fi choices
  • Unhealthy decisions, which occur when gadgets choose Wi-Fi connections despite the fact that these Wi-Fi networks are already straining underneath heavy masses
  • Decrease capabilities, which may result in poor efficiency if a tool connects to a Wi-Fi community with a decrease bandwidth within the backhaul than the mobile base station presently serving the system
  • Ping-Pong, which occurs when a consumer ping-pongs between Wi-Fi and mobile networks

Interworking mechanisms

The WBA’s Hotspot improves Wi-Fi community discovery and choice and helps SIM-based sign-in to Wi-Fi and some extent of seamlessness with mobile. The Passpoint program from the Wi-Fi Alliance on the system and tools enhances the work performed by the WBA on the end-to-end facet. The 2 complementary techniques help seamless authentication, giving customers a single log-in and a cellular-like comfort for each SIM and non-SIM gadgets, whether or not they’re simply on Wi-Fi or additionally roaming onto mobile. As of January 2019, the WFA reported 1387 gadgets licensed for Passpoint Launch 1, and 119 gadgets licensed for Passpoint Launch 2.

A complementary customary which was developed in conditions the place gadgets transfer between Wi-Fi and mobile is the 3GPP’s ANDSF. The ANDSF is a major enabler of clever community choice between 3GPP and non-3GPP entry networks. ANDSF is an optionally available community factor within the 3GPP Developed Packet Core (EPC), the aim of which is to supply consumer gadgets with helpful info and operator-defined insurance policies to information community choice choices. The thought is to increase coverage management from the core all the best way to the system the place the server signifies to the system which RAT to connect with and underneath what circumstances. Nonetheless, ANDSF has not been extensively deployed as it’s deemed too difficult and expensive to implement. Cisco and Smith Micro are a few of the few distributors actively supporting it.

The 3GPP has additionally developed hand-off and interworking specs—reminiscent of TWAG (Trusted Wi-fi Entry Gateway) and non-trusted entry—however none actually took off.

3GPP Releases 15 and 16 will present interworking between the 5G and Wi-Fi networks by enabling entry to the 5G Core through untrusted and trusted non-3GPP entry networks reminiscent of Wi-Fi. These efforts are targeted on defining structure and messaging to supply safe transport for the 5G management aircraft and information aircraft over non-3GPP entry through gateway features (N3IWF or TGNF).

The preliminary white paper signifies: “Additional examine is required to make sure a decent integration between 5G and Wi-Fi networks, to raised make the most of sources from each entry networks to fulfill necessities for a big selection of present and future 5G use instances.”

The paper provides: “A tighter integration between 5G and Wi-Fi could possibly enhance session mobility management via higher metrics and triggering mechanisms, scale back signaling complexity by offering higher anchoring factors, in addition to enhance information path help via using each accesses when these can be found.”


The design of 5G networks will revolve round virtualization and programmability of networks and providers. The arrival of 5G would appear to be a very good time to revisit the difficulty of interworking between 5G and Wi-Fi. A virtualized RAN, core, administration and orchestration platform could also be a very good alternative to include Wi-Fi in a versatile method with frequent management, particularly to serve the wants of indoor customers.

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