On the morning of Feb. 21, 1.7 million consumers and businesses lost cell and Internet service across the U.S. Several providers such as AT&T and Verizon reported outages for an extended period of time – leaving consumers frustrated and many businesses that rely primarily on 5G cellular service at a standstill. It was a quick and painful reminder that in our fast-moving and ever-changing world of technology and on-demand expectations, there is still a need for both 5G and Wi-Fi.

The debate around using 4G or 5G models versus campus-based Wi-Fi was resurfaced earlier this year, when a Wall Street Journal article focused on hospital CIOs, some of whom are re-evaluating their dependence on Wi-Fi as they struggle to meet ever-growing demands on the network. But what if a healthcare facility solely reliant on 5G had to deal with the Feb. 21 outage? What kind of disruption would it provide to patient care? Healthcare monitoring? The efficiency of clinicians?

Demands on the Network

These demands on the network are amplified by an increasing number of businesses that are bringing information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) together while significantly increasing the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. At the same time, high-bandwidth and latency-intensive applications such as video and voice that were once tethered to wired networks can now perform just as well on wireless connections. That’s because wireless access speeds are now equal to or even faster than those delivered by wired networks.At the same time, two enterprise wireless connectivity methods have emerged, creating confusion among buyers: Wi-Fi 6/6E and 7 and, with 5G now available, private 4G/5G.

Complementary Technologies

Research from an Extreme/ ZK Research 5G – Wi-Fi Deployment Survey found that 86% of organizations have deployed or plan to deploy Wi-Fi 6/6E/7. In addition, 92% have deployed or plan to deploy private cellular. This underscores the complementary nature of these technologies. Both technologies have limitations. With Wi-Fi, it can be considerations such as the amount of switches an organization can afford, or it could be the increasing strain brought on by more and more connected devices. 5G also has its limits, like cybersecurity concerns and the fact that many medical devices are not compatible with it. But, it does not have to be an either-or situation when considering 4G or 5G as opposed to Wi-Fi 6E/7. It’s possible to employ both to meet the needs of your organization in a secure, cost-effective way that can handle the daily and even hourly increased demand on the network.The use of both 5G and Wi-Fi is possible and necessary, but it must be managed from a unified console.


In addition, administrators must consider the following:

  • Make sure its cloud delivered. The flexibility of the cloud will make management simple and accessible from anywhere.
  • Look for AI-based analytics. Analytics that can be predictive and proactive will simplify the task of managing Wi-Fi and private cellular.
  • Get a solution from a company with a broad ecosystem of partners. Partners are a crucial ingredient in the cohesive management of disparate systems and technologies.
  • Ensure the company has a services organization to guarantee smooth deployment. In deploying these kinds of technologies, the services that a vendor brings to bear will be critical.
  • Ask about the company’s history of success with complicated venues or high-density buildings If the stories are slim or nonexistent, look elsewhere.
  • See if the company has licensing flexibility. Flexible license terms will ease your entry into unified management of Wi-Fi and cellular.
  • Make sure the company has you covered on campus, in the data-center, and with wide-area networking so you can have a seamless end-to-end network. If a company comes up short in any of those areas, look elsewhere.

Extreme Networks is a leader within the Wi-Fi 6E domain as a wired and wireless networking leader. Extreme lead the way with AP4000 and then became the first to ship an Enterprise Grade Wi-Fi 6E solution. In 2022, the company introduced the AP5050, the industry’s first outdoor Wi-Fi 6E Access Point. In 2024, Extreme announced its new cloud-managed, universal Wi-Fi access point, the industry’s easiest to deploy/provision switches. Extreme is committed to providing the best, most advanced solutions for customers, whether it is a hybrid model or Wi-Fi 6E/7.  Extreme’s Wi-Fi 6E solutions are being deployed across several industries to optimize performance. In healthcare, Novant Health rolled out an enterprise-grade patient experience, while the Crowne Plaza in Antwerp deployed Wi-Fi 6E to improve the guest experience. Framing this topic as a debate between which service is better is short-sighted. The use of both 5G and Wi-Fi is not only possible, but a potential solution for your company or organization. Learn more about Extreme’s products and solutions here.

Originally published on the Extreme Networks blog, February 23, 2024, by Kate Chappell