5G isn’t the be-all and end-all: network technologies and their applications

Despite all the hype surrounding the lightning-fast, soon-to-be-launched 5G mobile communication standard, most companies and private users are continuing to stick with the tried-and-trusted network standards. This article looks at the most important network technologies and their potential applications.

Helpless in Hesse? The German word machtlos means helpless – and it is also the name of a district of a small town in the German state of Hesse. It’s ironic, therefore, that the citizens of Machtlos, who are already forced to climb a small hill if they want to use their cellphone, are worried about being literally left helpless and cut off from the outside world following a major provider’s decision to terminate their analog and ISDN lines, according to a report in the local newspaper, HNA. The mayor of this small town has initiated a municipal appeal.

Mobile communication on the fast track

The provider had actually planned to complete the switch from analog and ISDN connections to IP technology and Internet telephony by the end of 2018, even resorting to coercive measures aimed at changing the minds of those unwilling to switch. Analog and ISDN connections with net data rates of no more than 38 to 60 Kbit/s (kilobits per second) are old news when it comes to Internet usage.

UMTS – the third-generation mobile cellular system – is already six times as fast, with LTE and 4G today delivering bit rates of up to 1 Gbit/s. 5G – the soon-to-be-launched 5th-generation mobile communication standard – is promising to deliver data transmission rates as high as 10 Gbit/s, or 10,000 megabits per second.

Even most corporate networks with copper or glass-fiber cables can’t keep up with speeds like this. Ethernet 1000Base – otherwise known as Gigabit Ethernet and which is used today in the local area networks (LAN) of many small companies – might theoretically promise data rates as high as 1,000 Mbit/s, but in reality generally offers no more than 300 Mbit/s. At the start of 2017, the Ethernet Consortium finally gave the go-ahead for 25 GbE and 50 GbE. With special monomode fibers, 400 Gbit/s would even be possible via Ethernet over distances of up to around 10 km. The biggest data throughput the world has ever seen was achieved by the Frankfurt-based Internet exchange point DE-CIX, where peak traffic hit 6.876 terabits per second in February 2019.


Information technology can be roughly divided up into six different networks. Take the access networks, for example: Global Area Network (GAN); Wide Area Network (WAN); Metropolitan Area Network (MAN); Local Area Network (LAN) and its wireless variant WLAN (more commonly referred to as Wi-Fi); and Personal Area Network (PAN), which includes connections such as USB, Firewire (IEEE 1394), Bluetooth or IrDA (infrared).

The Global Area Network (GAN) is rarely used as a terminus, although it can connect multiple Wide Area Networks (WANs) or broadband regional Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) using DSL technology such as VDSL. The access networks also encompass wireless technologies such as GPRS, UMTS, LTE and 5G as well as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), the 4G standard for the Wireless Metropolitan Area Network.

The latest trend is software-defined WAN

While companies with lots of different sites and branches still frequently use comparatively pricey MPLS lines for their WAN connections, Proservia GmbH & Co. KG is following the latest trend by also offering its corporate customers Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) with different transmission channels as a managed service via the cloud. For less latency-critical applications (e.g. backup), cheaper IPsec or LTE connections are accessed.

The Local Area Network (LAN) – mentioned above in the context of Ethernet – can be used, for example, as a cabled connection in a home or corporate network via the RJ45 interface on the computer or laptop. LAN also includes Powerline (PLC), which enables access via the power supply system. WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), which is often used synonymously with the Wi-Fi brand name, is a wireless connection in a home or corporate network.

SD-WAN explained:

(Quelle: aruba via YouTube)

Wi-Fi 6 set to become the latest WLAN standard

The various WLAN standards have always traditionally been described by the generic term IEEE 802.11x, which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue of your average consumer. This is why the Wi-Fi Alliance agreed in 2018 to now assign version numbers to the different Wi-Fi standards. So “802.11n” will be renamed “Wi-Fi 4,” and “802.11ac” renamed “Wi-Fi 5,” the latest standard. This delivers a theoretical data throughput of up to 6,936 Mbit/s, although in practice this is unlikely to exceed 1,733 Mbit/s.

The recently adopted standard, which is expected to be launched in late 2019, is called “802.11ax” – or simply “Wi-Fi 6.” And according to Aruba Networks, a subsidiary of HP Enterprise, not only will Wi-Fi 6 offer a throughput capacity up to four times greater than Wi-Fi 5, it will also bring WLAN technology to a whole new level. Because even though the data throughput has continuously increased with every new generation, the problem remained that one WLAN access point could serve only one device at a time per channel.

Imagine an eight-lane highway that ends suddenly in one lane that can only ever accommodate one car at a time. So in public hotspots, where lots of Wi-Fi users want to access the Internet simultaneously, this problem manifests itself in the fact that either there is a severe drop-off in bandwidth capacity or the Internet cannot be accessed at all.

More speed and bidirectional multiuser functionality

The most important new feature of 802.11ax – or Wi-Fi 6 – is bidirectional multiuser functionality with access via multiple subcarriers for orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing access (OFDMA). Sticking with the analogy of an eight-lane highway, the highway would end in anything up to the full eight lanes – and in both directions, too. This is supported by multi-user multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO) technology, which was introduced with 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5).

As AVM explains in relation to the Fritz!Box 7590, this means that multiple recipients can receive multiple data streams simultaneously. The Wi-Fi router supports Wi-Fi devices with 4 x 4 MIMO or two devices with 2 x 2 MIMO with a single antenna. That said, MU-MIMO with Wi-Fi 5 is supported only in the downlink for downloads; in contrast, however, Wi-Fi 6 will offer MU-MIMO in both the downlink and uplink.

5G is not the only answer to the IoT of the future

The result will be much shorter waiting times and, in turn, improved data throughput on each device. The power consumption or battery runtime of the Wi-Fi device will also be improved. Wi-Fi 6 will therefore make Wi-Fi a viable technology for accessing the Internet of Things (IoT). As an Intel diagram on Techspot.com shows, the advent of 802.11ac or Wi-Fi 5 saw the addition of not only mobile devices, but also temperature sensors.

802.11ax – or Wi-Fi 6 – will be capable of communicating with all manner of devices ranging from washing machines, surveillance cameras, AR/VR glasses, robots and other production machinery equipped with the required sensors and actuators, and IoT devices. The traditional ways of accessing the IoT have generally always been Bluetooth, ZigBee or similar wireless technologies as deployed in smart homes.

Although 5G is regarded as the primary facilitator of autonomous driving and the machine control applications of the future, the next Wi-Fi standard – 802.11ax – could see the new mobile communication standard facing some powerful competition. After all, it is expected to deliver data rates of 44 Gbit/s per data stream, or as much as 176 Gbit/s with a total of four streams. When the new standard is adopted, as expected, in late 2019, we could be seeing the first applications just one year later.

Aruba Networks is always one step ahead of the current state of development, which is why Proservia will be collaborating even more closely with the HPE subsidiary in order to – and in keeping with peopleIT’s own philosophy – offer customers coherent solutions for the network tasks of today and tomorrow.


You want to learn more about network technologies?
Read more.



source title: bagotaj / iStock