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NGMN and Wireless Broadband Alliance push for RAN convergence


Standards bodies call for combined 5G and Wi-Fi network resources to address new opportunities and use cases.

NGMN and Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) today published the initial results of their collaboration to foster the convergence of multi-technology radio access and core networks. The report identifies opportunities arising from through the convergence of 3GPP’s 5G and Wi-Fi, enabled by the growing capabilities of licenced and unlicensed technologies.

It also highlights obstacles to the convergence, which include closer integration of Wi-Fi access in 5G networks, better network management and policy control, and support for Wi-Fi-only devices.

Why now?

Wi-Fi and cellular ecosystems’ functional commonality has increased of late with Wi-Fi 6 and 3GPP’s 5G, encompassing New Radio (NR) and LTE from Release 15 onwards, as well as the 3GPP 5G Core. Now the two organisations say that convergence is the way to provide seamless network services, and point out that substantial amounts of traffic generated by smartphones is already offloaded onto Wi-Fi.

Dr Peter Meissner, CEO of the NGMN Alliance, stated,  “To realise service and network convergence, we have worked with the WBA to identify…requirements that must first be satisfied. This is particularly true in the enterprise and Public Wi-Fi space, where there is a demand from cellular operators for a standardised solution for improved visibility and control in the configuration and management of Wi-Fi access networks.”

Proving the point

The report gives examples of converged use cases including enterprise services, running on cellular networks enabled by 5G Core, that could need “an access-neutral mechanism” to overcome gaps in coverage; leverage areas of dense Wi-Fi penetration indoors and outside; and serve multi-site enterprises.

Tiago Rodrigues, General Manager of WBA said, “Wi-Fi 6 introduces new capabilities for carriers, cities and enterprises to cost effectively provide additional coverage and capacity, mainly indoor, to address the 5G use case requirements. Now it’s time to fully capitalize on these capabilities by delivering a clear strategic path for converged RAN deployments. This is a priority.

“We will continue to work closely with NGMN and its members to review, develop and test potential solutions, as identified in our recent 5G White Paper.