Wi-Fi and cellular: is Wi-Fi all you need for your enterprise wireless connectivity, or can cellular be a great addition to the mix? Here’s a short, straightforward guide to the complementary aspects between Wi-Fi and cellular.
While Wi-Fi is able to scale to meet many enterprise wireless connectivity requirements, private cellular may be a better choice for applications that require deterministic, ultra-reliable connections and ones that need to operate across very large outdoor and indoor environments. It is also ideal for highly mobile devices due to low latency communication when devices are on the move. In other words, the truth is, most often both technologies will be deployed together in order to complement one another.
Wi-Fi and Cellular: The Key Differences
There are some key differences you’ll want to review when comparing Wi-Fi vs. cellular networks when it comes to enterprise environments. While some of these needs will be industry-specific, many will relate directly to large enterprises looking for reliable, scalable, and affordable networking solutions.
One of the most glaring differences between Wi-Fi vs. cellular networks is providing consistent and reliable coverage over large distances.
While Wi-Fi is a popular option, it often isn’t the best choice for challenging indoor environments such as warehouses and factory floors, and for large outdoor areas such as in agricultural fields or smart cities.
The presence of interference from neighboring Wi-Fi networks across large venues, retail locations and hospitals would be another great reason to utilize private 4G LTE and 5G connectivity for critical IoT infrastructure and mobile devices used by staff in these environments.
For such critical infrastructure, especially when they are on the move, private LTE/5G wireless could be a great asset to enable new digital business initiatives since it offers the ability to control handover events for client devices between different access points in the network, instead of letting each device make that decision for itself. As a result, private cellular usually sees increased predictability of performance for all applications relying on a wireless network.
When to Use Cellular Over Wi-Fi
The bigger a business becomes, the more apparent the benefits are of switching to a private cellular network. As an enterprise begins to scale, Wi-Fi’s ability to provide fast and reliable coverage quickly diminishes.
When reliability and uptime are of the utmost importance, you’ll want to consider using a cellular network connection seriously. Private cellular networks can provide four times the distance indoors and ten times the distance outdoors, when compared to a standard Wi-Fi access point. Outside of just convenience, this helps ensure that critical wireless infrastructure is always protected and available.
This level of coverage will become more critical in the coming years as more enterprises leverage the power of IoT devices. These tiny sensors rely on a stable wireless connection to transmit data to their servers.
IoT devices can measure everything from oil levels to air temperature and help businesses avoid downtime through proactive monitoring. These small but powerful sensors can be deployed by the hundreds, meaning they’ll need the added coverage and capacity requirements that private cellular offers.
Since private cellular networks are on a regulated spectrum, the cellular broadcast frequency is always free from interference when operating within a private spectrum, such as CBRS in the United States. Not only does this keep the airways clear, but it also allows for the deployment of private cellular networks directly on top of existing Wi-Fi networks.
Wi-Fi operates on an unregulated spectrum that must accept interference from other devices, whether a new office next door or public Wi-Fi installations.
When looking at Wi-Fi vs. cellular, application QoS has to be a key topic of discussion. Celona’s unique 5G LAN solution is designed to onboard many applications to the same network, served by different Celona MicroSlicing™ policies - each with a specific throughput, latency and packet error rate promise. This allows to go beyond what’s offered with Wi-Fi QoS, and enables service level agreements (SLA) for each application.
Private LTE/5G and Wi-Fi Security
From a security perspective, Wi-Fi operates on an open spectrum, meaning that its signal is broadcast to all devices in the region. This inherent openness can attract curious passersby as well as dedicated hackers who will try their tools on a network. One misconfiguration can lead to access control issues and security incidents, and if not appropriately segmented, it could link directly to your internal network.
Cellular technology takes the opposite approach and only allows devices with the correct SIM identity to join the network. Each device utilizes preprogrammed identification and authentication information in its SIM card, which also encrypts all data by default.
Within a private cellular network, there is no concept of an “open SSID” or “pre-shared keys” - eliminating many concerns about wireless network security.
Each SIM identity can be provisioned remotely with network access control managed on an on-demand basis. Each traffic flow within a private cellular network utilizes centralized encryption, by terminating the wireless user traffic at locations where the private 4G/5G core is installed.
This works using the same technology that allows your carrier-specific cellphone to connect to nearby towers for service. Putting critical wireless devices behind cellular networks helps simplify the security process and draw a clear line between what has access to certain parts of the enterprise network.
How Can Businesses Deploy Cellular Networks?
Businesses can now deploy their own private mobile network, thanks to the availability of private spectrum options such as CBRS in the United States. These new spectrum options offer many benefits but more than anything else it allows for enterprise IT and industrial IoT application teams to deploy their own cellular radios on top of their existing infrastructure and enable private LTE and 5G cellular connectivity for enterprise owned and staff operated critical infrastructure. With Celona’s unique 5G LAN solution, they can truly keep network management and enterprise data private and secure.
Once in place, organizations can create SLAs and specific requirements for certain devices to ensure business-critical hardware is always prioritized.
Access and management of the network can be performed by a managed services provider partner who can work with the IT department to make changes and monitor the health of this brand new flavor of wireless network connectivity. While there are many steps in successfully deploying private cellular, it’s never been easier to build your own mobile network with the multitude of tools and resources now available.
The Celona Solution
Celona’s 5G LAN solution for enterprise organizations is deployed an out-of-the-box solution that can be set up alongside existing Wi-Fi networks and IT infrastructure. It includes all the ingredients one needs to deploy a private cellular network, truly integrated to an enterprise network, within days.
This plug-and-play design utilizes cloud-based software that proactively monitors and optimizes network conditions on the fly and prioritizes application flows based on service level agreements (SLA) you define for each of the Celona MicroSlicing policies.
Through a combination of hardware, software, and artificial intelligence, Celona helps orchestrate a private LTE and 5G wireless network for businesses that are looking into augmenting their existing Wi-Fi networks.
If you are one of those organizations, we can help. See our unique 5G LAN solution in action, or test out private cellular in your environment with a free trial.