The 5G and IoT Revolution

The 5G and IoT Revolution


Mobile cellular communication has played an integral part in shaping our society, connecting us with people across the world and accelerating our economies. Cellular technologies have evolved from 1G to 4G with various points of focus like data rate, energy dissipation, bandwidth utilisation, and spectrum management. Now, we welcome 5G. Abigail Opiah reports.

Fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) promises to provide new experiences and services in connectivity and applications. The exact specifications of 5G are finalised and it is being explained as both an evolution in mobile cellular technologies and a revolution empowered by disruptive changes in network nodes and architectures, services, and use cases.

A number of factors, including increased demand from consumers and enterprises and the availability of more affordable devices, is driving the adoption of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). Significant operator investment in 5G technology, spectrum and infrastructure, together with the implementation of global standards, are also helping to drive growth and increase market interest in the IoT.

The first 5G networks are being deployed around the world today, amid expectations that this advanced mobile technology will play a significant part in the digital transformation and economic success of many countries.

Mikaël Schachne, VP of Mobility and IoT at BICS has spent the last 20 years of his career developing international services to enable telecom providers and digital service providers to interconnect better with the mobile world. His stance on 5G, in a nutshell, is that it will be required from mobile operators to manage the massive increase of mobile data that is being generated by the users, and that will continue to grow in the coming years.

“At some point in time in certain areas, there has been congestion on the 3G and 4G infrastructures, but 5G will be there to let users continue generating huge amounts of mobile data on their devices,” says Schachne.

“The growth of smartphone penetration, the increase of streaming services, HD quality coming into play, amongst other things, will generate a massive uptake of traffic. Mobile operators need to leverage that and supply the underlying infrastructure, which is why 5G will be required.

“That is probably why in certain areas of the world, they really need 5G now to meet the customer demand. With 5G comes additional benefits that might become a reality in the second phase of the rollout because it requires a lot of additional investment and changes into the network,” he continues.

“Every interaction that could happen between devices and the cloud, where a huge amount of processing will be done instantaneously, will require instant transfer of data to the device on both sides.

“Many countries are still waiting for the regulators to give them the green light to deploy 5G, but many operators are spending a lot of time on 5G. At first, 5G will be more of an evolution as opposed to a revolution. We will have a full transformation where 5G core will be made available, but this will require a lot of effort,” Schachne adds.

According to a GSMA report published in 2019, 4G will continue to be used for many consumer and enterprise IoT use cases. Nontheless, 5G provides a range of benefits to IoT, which are not available with 4G or other technologies. These include 5G’s ability to support a massive number of static and mobile IoT devices, which have a diverse range of speed, bandwidth and quality of service requirements. As the IoT evolves, the flexibility of 5G will become even more significant for enterprises seeking support for the rigorous requirements of critical communications.

Supporting that notion, John Vickery, principal technology partner at BT says that when looking at the value of 5G – how it can underpin trust and security, how it’s going to support with making people more productive to deliver integrated public services to give people a better quality of life, as well as improving healthcare – these are the values that should be spoken about.

“The 5G revolution has already started. You don’t have to wait for every part of 5G to be delivered, as use cases can be tested right now. What 5G does is provide additional capacity; as an absolute minimum, the technology itself is a more efficient use of spectrum,” adds Vickery.

“As data usage grows, 5G gives us the additional capacity to make sure that everyone has that user experience, so it is something that the whole industry needs to do anyway. When you start moving through the phases of 5G, we start seeing the ultra-reliable low latency from the standalone 5G standard.

“As we evolve that and start integrating with IoT, you will see a lot more enterprise focus use-cases really starting to come through, particularly with the low latency capability; so if you want to start doing things like remote crane operation or remote surgery, you will need ultra-low latency over the mobile network, which will come in the future,” Vickery continues.

Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and edge computing will all help to handle the data volumes generated by the IoT, as 5G boosts network capacity. Further 5G enhancements, such as network slicing, non-public networks and 5G core, will ultimately help to realise the vision of a global IoT network, supporting a massive number of connected devices.

“There are a number of ways to connect IoT devices: you can connect them via Wifi, LoRaWAN or NVIOT. The value in these things can be linked, which combines all of that data to create real-time actionable insights,” says Vickery.

“You are taking high definition video right back over the 5G network, and you are taking SensaData over a different connection mechanism and you are collating that and trying to devise real-time insight, maybe it’s to do with connected autonomous vehicles so you can make decisions that potentially have an impact on safety.

“It could also be something to do with healthcare, where you need the collated information very quickly, that is where you are going to start to see the real value because people are going to be able to make very quick decisions from multiple sources of data coming through multiple technologies. 5G is really going to bring all that together. To deliver some of the outcomes we are expected to see over the next 10 years, IoT and 5G need each other,” Vickery adds.

5G brings a range of benefits to the IoT, which are not available with 4G or other technologies. These include 5G’s ability to support a massive number of static and mobile IoT devices, which have a diverse range of speed, bandwidth and quality of service requirements.

Vickery thinks it will be interesting to see how that data intelligence and data management capability starts to evolve, and where different companies decide to operate within that new ecosystem.

However, 5G has not been welcomed with open arms by all. Recently, US President Donald Trump warned that the Huawei 5G deals will put intelligence sharing at risk. The US President cautioned Germany that the United States will cut off intelligence sharing if Berlin does not ban the Chinese telecoms company from its 5G infrastructure.

“There is a myth that 5G is unsafe; those types of frequencies have been used for years, but I know a lot of people have been talking about 5G and safety in regards to the millimetre spectrum, which has not even been deployed in the UK yet,” Vickery says.

“There have been no announcements yet of how that spectrum band will be used, but whenever a spectrum band is used, a huge amount of effort goes into the radiation and we always work within the radiation and power regulatory body’s guidelines,” Vickery concludes.

As the 5G rollout continues throughout 2020, CCS Insight predicts that there will be as many as one billion 5G customers by 2023. 

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