For years now, wireless Internet has impacted many people’s lives for the better—it’s much easier to do more on mobile devices from anywhere, whether it’s at work, at home or some remote location. As time goes on, there have been efforts to make connections faster, while at the same time using less power. At face value, that sounds like a winning combination, but as The Wall Street Journal recently noted, those enhancements come with some complications. For example, more devices are coming online like smart home sensors and artificially intelligent computers, but the current wireless systems weren’t constructed to handle the increased volume.
That’s why big changes are coming to the wireless connections people have become accustomed to, according to The Wall Street Journal. Expected upgrades to cellular networks include next-generation Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6), a stronger Bluetooth standard (Bluetooth 5) and the frequently-discussed 5G, as they all look to help bring everything and everyone online more easily.
For Commercial Real Estate owners and managers what does all of this mean? There’s more wireless coming to your building soon. Education and preparation to find out what tenants need and want will be critical to making sure that your tenant engagement is as seamless and meaningful as possible.
Although 5G is mentioned as part of this wireless network evolution, the truth is it is not being deployed evenly or quickly, according to The Wall Street Journal. Initially, wireless carriers are attaching 5G components to current LTE networks that will make them run better. The term, “5G NR” or “new radio” is a technology that’s been used to upgrade existing 4G networks. For example, Verizon offers modems that can grab any nearby 5G signal and turn it into Wi-Fi so wireless devices can use it.
Actual stand-alone 5G is expected to come later because it requires brand new infrastructure that includes small routers all over the place so they can accommodate new radio bands that have shorter frequency waves that the carriers’ currently have. 5G also promises reduced lag, which is necessary if it’s going to keep promises of streaming virtual reality games and help operate self-driving vehicles. While The Wall Street Journal noted it could be the 2020s before full-fledged 5G is viable, it could be the only Internet people will need if carriers can make it quickly and cost-effective enough.
Meanwhile, with Wi-Fi 6, companies involved in the Wi-Fi Alliance standards group have opted to improve the way a network handles traffic instead of increase Wi-Fi’s theoretical top speed. New routers that can support Wi-Fi 6 are expected to help users televisions, video game systems, and smart refrigerator coexist better. However, the next generation of Wi-Fi is expected to be able to handle much more.
“When you’re at a train station in Tokyo, when you’re at the Super Bowl in a crowd, the user experience is going to be completely transformed in those environments,” Kevin Robinson, the Alliance’s vice president of marketing told The Wall Street Journal.
New MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output) technology, which allow a radio transmitter to handle requests from different devices simultaneously, and OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access), which can split one channel into may pieces can make these transformed environments possible.
According to Robinson, MU-MIMO is similar to adding more trucks a fleet, while OFDMA enables each truck to make multiple stops on its route. In other words, users’ devices won’t have to work as hard to access a crowded network. Someone could complete a social media post and make a phone call on a crowded stadium Wi-Fi network successfully on their first attempt. While these technologies can quicken a Netflix stream, they’re really meant to pull in all of the small messages from various chat apps and smart home devices that would normally have to wait a long time to break through otherwise. Wi-Fi 6 supports some devices now, but that number is expected to rise by 2020 when Alliance’s certification program is activated.
Lastly, Bluetooth 5 is expected to enhance the technology from something that currently lets people connect their headphones to their mobile device into a way sensor networks communicate and can provide people with specific directions in a mall. Currently, Bluetooth 5 exists in numerous devices including the Apple Watch Series 4 as well as Apple and Samsung smartphones.
“If Bluetooth could penetrate one or two walls before, it can now penetrate three or four walls,” Chuck Sabin, senior director of business strategy and planning at the Bluetooth SIG standards organization told The Wall Street Journal.
How users should handle the changes to the wireless landscape depends on the technology they plan to use. For Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, users should keep them in mind when they buy new devices, even if they won’t be able to leverage the benefits right away, according to The Wall Street Journal. 5G, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. Users’ ability to access it will vary based on where they live, their wireless carrier and what devices they own. A few manufacturers have displayed 5G phone prototypes, but nothing is expected to be available this year. For now, it’s recommended to future proof as much as possible, but don’t go out of your way to do so.