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This IDC Perspective analyzes the concurrent development of two high-performance, low-latency wireless connectivity technologies in the licensed and unlicensed domains: 5G and Wi-Fi 6. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 each represent significant enhancements to wireless network connectivity. Their simultaneous entrance into the networking market in the near future is inevitably creating an enthusiastic debate in the industry of whether these technologies will supplement or supplant one another. IDC believes these technologies will coexist. In fact, important enhancements each brings to the market will create new business opportunities for networking vendors and new use cases for enterprise customers.

"Wi-Fi has grown to become the dominant indoor wireless connectivity method because of its reliability and manageability. Enhancements brought about thanks to Wi-Fi 6 will only improve Wi-Fi's importance in the enterprise, especially for new use cases such as Internet of Things deployments and dense Wi-Fi environments," says Brandon Butler, senior research analyst, Enterprise Networks. "While upcoming 5G and CBRS technology will have their own importance in the market, they will not supplant the multibillion-dollar worldwide Wi-Fi market."

"5G's ability to address both consumers and industry verticals will be about much more than just performance, as it will need to achieve better unit economics to see mass uptake, particularly indoors. CBRS and 5G NR-U are two methods that could help move the needle in a positive direction but are unlikely to cause significant disruption to the existing WLAN market. Instead, integrating solutions may represent the best approach long term, particularly for indoor use cases, " says Patrick Filkins, senior research analyst, IoT and Mobile Network Infrastructure.



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