5G and your IoT project
5G is heralded as a transformational technology for the IoT, so what will the realities and opportunities be for IoT project owners?
What is 5G and what does it mean for the IoT?
5G is the latest generation of cellular connectivity and is ultimately likely to be the most transformational for economies and societies around the world. Whereas 3G and 4G were predominantly built to improve speed and bandwidth, 5G will deliver benefits that will enable a multitude of new use cases in the world of IoT.
5G signals have a short range compared to 2G, 3G, 4G and cellular LPWAN technologies, meaning more masts are needed so coverage is currently focused around major cities. However, global 5G deployments are accelerating with countries such as China and South Korea leading the charge. The GSMA forecast that 40% of the world’s population will have coverage by 2025.
5G networks are being built to supplement 4G networks (which are not going anywhere) and provide an enhanced platform to support the growth in critical communication services across the globe. With initial 5G focus on the consumer offering, it is only recently that we have seen operators focus on M2M and IoT capabilities.
5G is about more than just speed
With global standards still to be agreed for full 5G network cores, operators across the world are currently upgrading masts for 5G radio – delivering a ‘lite’ version of 5G. 5G ‘lite’ will bring some of the enhanced mobile broadband benefits of 5G (speed and latency), but not some of the advanced features such as network slicing. It’s likely that we won’t see full 5G network capability widely until 2022.
Think of “5G lite” as having a ‘5G’ Ferrari, but only being able to drive it on country roads! To really achieve the full benefits of 5G, the network core needs to support all the features, functions & benefits available… letting you take your 5G Ferrari to the race track!
Where does 5G fit against other connectivity technologies?
5 ways in which full 5G is transforming the IoT
Faster Speeds & Higher Bandwidth
Complementing fixed line connectivity or as a high performance alternative
Ultra-Low Latency & Ultra-High Reliability
Enabling mission critical applications that require ultra-low latency
Connecting huge numbers of devices
Connecting vast numbers of devices concurrently through ‘Massive IoT’
Advanced Critical Communications
Capabilities such as network slicing, edge computing and vehicle to vehicle (V2V)
Advanced Security & Private LTE Networks
High levels of security for devices and data and private LTE networks
What applications and new opportunities is 5G enabling?
Applications utilising the enhanced mobile broadband capabilities of ‘5G lite’ are likely to be the early adopters, but full 5G is opening up a new set of applications and opportunities. Here are some examples:
ISPs & Cloud Services Providers
Enhancing SD-WAN and MPLS networks, using the faster, more resilient and higher bandwidth 5G for fixed line failover and rapid deployment
Public Transport WiFi
Enhancing the speed and bandwidth of public WiFi on trains, buses and other forms of public transport
CCTV & Surveillance
Ultra-High definition (8k) streaming will enable augmentation of high resolution CCTV feeds for applications such as social distancing analysis
Low latency and edge computing will enable real-time immersive advertising opportunities for media/content providers
Reliability and increased bandwidth make high quality, real-time broadcasting a possibility for media and individuals
Ultra-low latency and reliability could enable mission critical eHealth use cases such as remote surgery and connectivity for emergency services
Autonomous vehicles at scale will be enabled through vehicle to vehicle capabilities, EDGE computing and the high reliability of 5G
Real-time remote control of heavy machinery in hazardous environments, will lower costs, improve efficiency and lower safety risks
Private LTE Networks
Locations such as universities, hospitals, military bases or transport hubs will benefit from highly secure and rapidly deployed private LTE networks
What are the practical considerations of 5G for IoT projects?
Do you need 5G?
For the vast majority of today’s IoT projects, existing 2G, 3G, 4G and cellular LPWAN connectivity is sufficient to meet the needs of applications. Tested and trusted hardware and established roaming agreements already in place for these technologies, so without specific needs for 5G connectivity there is little reason to migrate right now.
There will be existing applications that benefit from 5G. Mobile broadband led applications such as fixed line failover (e.g. for SD-WAN networks) and WiFi on transport are good examples. 5G will also enable innovation and growth of the IoT through applications that don’t exist today.
5G Coverage & Roaming
Although coverage is rapidly increasing across major networks, in Europe and the US it’s still mainly confined to densely populated areas. Checking coverage for where your application is likely to be used is an essential first step.
With roaming agreements still in their infancy, 5G is likely to remain a local service for some time and although this will eventually change. It’s likely that networks will want to manage this carefully in order to see the return on their 5G investment.
5G Modules, 5G SIMs & Costs
Because adoption is still in the early stages, both modules and routers compatible with 5G are expensive and for some applications cost prohibitive. As module and router manufacturers see demand increase, costs will fall to levels more in line with existing cellular connectivity technologies. The airtime itself will also be more costly than other bearer services, so all of this must be taken into consideration.
New SIMs will probably be required for most 5G networks, so planning ahead will be key for those with large and dispersed deployments.