What's next for IoT as we enter the 5G era?
June 08, 2021
Over the last few years, communication technology standards have evolved considerably. Since the release of the first generation (1G) technology in the 1980s, the flywheel has ensured the release of newer and improved wireless mobile telecommunication protocols roughly every ten years. The first generation of mobile networks (1G), with a data speed of 2.4 kbps, was all about voice. The second (2G), with a data speed of 64 Kbps and based on GSM gave room for texting along with voice, which was a revolutionary upgrade. An avenue for non-intrusive non-critical information exchange was a very welcome addition. The third (3G), with a data speed of 144 kbps-2 Mbps, was about voice, texting, and data and truly opened up the first generation of smartphones to the world and the ensuing fight for supremacy between the biggest known names in the consumer smartphone segment, namely the Samsungs, Apples, Motorolas. The fourth (4G) was everything in 3G but faster. Subsequent generations of wireless technologies have become faster and improved with new features.
All of them, as stated above, have different speeds and features that improve on the previous generation. Today, most wireless carriers support both 4G and 3G technology. The next-generation communication technology, which is 5G, is more than just the data speed. Industry experts predict it can do wonders in the Internet of Things sector. 5G is touted as the next elixir after the advent of the internet & the world wide web, set to create tectonic shifts across Industries and business processes.
Entering the 5G era
As of 2019, there were an estimated 22 billion connected devices on the planet with almost 9 billion of them being smartphones connected on cellular. The rest is the countless million devices, machines & equipment connected to the internet. The number of cellular-connected devices is expected to surge from around 800 million worldwide right now to over 4 billion in the next 4 to 5 years and one definite driver for that accelerated adoption will be the proliferation of 5G.
The most prevalent cellular IoT technologies are known for their low-cost, low-power consumption solution. They offer deep and broad coverage for indoor and outdoor applications. These cellular technologies are capable of delivering secure connectivity and authentication, and are always easy to deploy to any network topology, and are designed for full scope scalability and capacity upgrades.
5G or the 5th generation wireless communication technology as standardized by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), will also provide existing LPWAN protocols like NB IoT over the 5G spectrum, thereby ensuring a smooth transition for product makers as well their customers.
Types of 5G
There are three versions of 5G being built, and even though they differ in terms of network architecture, they will eventually work together. There are four major U.S wireless companies developing plans on how to build out 5G to their customer bases, these are namely - AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. Their strategies depend on current wireless spectrum holdings. Below are the three versions of 5G:
1) Low-band 5G - Low band is the closest 5G spectrum to 4G LTE with operating frequencies closer to TV and radio stations. It has a speed that is 20 percent faster than 4G LTE networks. The biggest advantage over the other 5G types, being the ability of the signal to travel longer distances.
2) Mid-band 5G - This is an advancement over Low-band 5G, with a speed 6x faster than LTE networks. Mid-band is quite synonymous with the sub-6 GHz spectrum. While mid-band is wider than low-band and can transport more data, it can’t travel as far as Low-band. This issue however gets bigger with mmWave high-band 5G as described below.
3) mmWave high-band 5G - These extremely low latency networks have speeds that are 10x faster than LTE networks. The catch being the requirement for repeaters is very high for mmWave transmission as it is mostly line of sight transmission. mmWave, the spectrum between 30 GHz - 200 GHz has the ability to carry great amounts of data at extremely high speeds, contributing a lot to the huge attention around 5G technology. Almost all of the innovative use cases doing the rounds like precision surgery in healthcare is riding on mmWave technology
Benefits of 5G
With IoT-enabled devices in mind, 5G technology connects devices at relatively higher speeds and minimizes lag. This makes 5G the most sought-after wireless technology when it comes to creating an excellent user experience regardless of what device, service, or application you are dealing with. Below are the top advantages of the release of 5G networks in a fast-paced world.
Improved data transfer speed
The success of any IoT device is directly linked to its performance. Quick and easy device communication is key to making quick and prompt decisions. 5G technology is expected to offer faster speed than current LTE networks. For example, when it comes to smart home devices, this increase in data transfer speed helps to reduce the lag and improve the overall speed at which connected devices send and receive data and notifications.
5G speeds compared
Every new generation of the mobile network is built to deliver faster speeds when compared to their previous ones.
|Mobile Network||Average Speed||Peak Speed|
|4G LTE Advanced||42Mbps||1Gbps|
|5G||500-700Mbps||10 or 20Gbps|
Note: 5G speed estimates gathered based on current speed tests available on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. Carriers claim 5G speeds are 10 or 20 times faster than 4G LTE.
[Image Source: 5G: How Fast is It Compared to Past Networks? - LetsTalk.com]
Better network reliability
The 5G network's high-speed connectivity, low latency, and more excellent coverage will be essential for IoT. To take advantage of these improvements, manufacturers must first invest in building 5G-compatible devices.
Industries that will benefit from the advent of 5G
The top three industries that will benefit the most with 5G technology in IoT are:
Transportation & Logistics
- Improved Location Tracking - 5G's advanced geolocation technology allows tracking all regions and even places considered dead zones before. 5G also allows better visibility over delays, which helps in finding the most optimized routes.
- Safety and Reliability - Drivers stay in contact and get real-time alerts about road conditions, weather conditions, and reroute if necessary. Traffic lights can adapt dynamically, adjusting the lights to avoid unnecessary delays.
- V2X Ecosystem - 5G will support a broad range of V2X and non-V2X use cases, including enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Internet of Things (mIoT) mission-critical services.
Industrial & manufacturing operations
- Augmented reality for troubleshooting - Using augmented reality for troubleshooting, manufacturers can mitigate the cost of breakdown and reduce production downtime.
- Maintenance - Sensors will gather information in real-time to tell you exactly when to change the tool or apart. The manufacturers identify the perfect time to procure a replacement for the faulty part, eliminating the device's chance of being more damaged.
- Remote operations support - 5G enables manufacturers to turn a machine on remotely. So they can start the device on their way to work, eliminating any delay, thereby increasing the efficiency of production.
- Real-time Remote Monitoring - Wearable devices powered by 5G enables doctors to monitor their patients remotely and get real-time data. According to Anthem, 86% of doctors say wearables, a common type of remote monitoring, increase patient engagement with their health. Additionally, wearables are predicted to decrease hospital costs by 16% in the next five years.
- Expansion of telemedicine - Telemedicine requires a network that can support high-quality real-time video, which often means wired networks. With 5G, healthcare systems can enable mobile networks to handle telemedicine appointments, significantly increasing the program's reach.
- Quick transfer of large image files - Specialists use MRIs and other machine images for review. These images are usually large files, and transmission over low bandwidth results in slow or unsuccessful transfer.
The future belongs to 5G networks
The evolution of communication technologies from 2G/3G/4G to 5G is set to see tectonic shifts in both consumer & industrial sectors. In the years to come, we are set to witness large-scale automation of utility services, automobiles, and several smart city use cases.
Connected homes, healthcare wearables, smartwatches are the devices of the future whose adoption will undoubtedly grow with the performance and high-speed capabilities of 5G technology. 5G’s worldwide adoption is expected to change the dynamics and functioning of economies and markets, transforming the future of connected things. Now the next unprecedented scenario is if this network which is set to take over the world may have an adverse impact on the environment and ecology. It is early to place bets, but policymakers are not backing away and are most likely to wait out the rollout and see.