Jan 31, 2019
Understanding 5G and What it Means for IoT
It's not uncommon to hear the term 5G these days. In fact, it's become quite the buzzword with many cellular carriers claiming they now have it. There are a lot of myths around 5G so today we're going to discuss understanding 5G and what its impact means for IoT. The term 5G stands for Fifth Generation. The standards for 5G were adopted by the wireless industry in 2017, and since that time the major cell carriers and cell phone manufacturers have been developing the infrastructure and the products that can support 5G. However, the appeal of 5G is much more than just cell phones. The object of 5G is to make just about every internet-connected device run on the 5G network. This is because it offers significantly more bandwidth for more devices and will allow for upload and download speeds that are 100 times faster, all with less latency and more reliable than the current 4G LTE. Simply speaking, understanding 5G means understanding that it will use all three spectrum ranges that can carry a radio signal. 4G and its predecessors use only the low range of the spectrum and it has become subject to network congestion issues. This can be seen at major sports arenas or other events where a large number of people descend into relatively small areas. This can even be seen in big cities during lunchtime. So after watching all the commercials it makes you want to run out and buy one of these cool new 5G phones, but here’s the thing. Currently there are zero 5G phones on the market and there is no 5G service available to the public. But you say, AT&T has begun using the term 5G E. This merely marketing where “E” stands for evolution. So it is a “move” toward 5G, but still is fully dependent and operating on existing 4G LTE technology. So when can you purchase a 5G phone? According to manufacturer claims of Motorola and Samsung, there should be at least two true 5G smartphones later this year. However even with an honest 5G phone, for it to reach its full capability it will need to connect to 5G towers. There are currently plans for a few small markets to get 5G infrastructure, but it will be years until 5G will be available in most areas outside of major metropolitan areas. As 5G will have capabilities for much faster speeds and abilities to handle more traffic, the problem is that the distance that 5G communications can travel is much smaller than 4G. This means that a 5G network will need many more cell towers. Besides the need to upgrade the existing large cell towers that we are currently familiar with, the 5G technology will require large amounts of small cell towers affixed to things like lampposts and rooftops with the average distribution being around 500 or 600 meters or roughly every 6 to 8 houses. If you want the full benefit of 5G, your neighborhood is going to have these small towers all around. Much like when 4G started out or with other technology like cable or high-speed broadband, rural less populated areas will be the last to get 5G service. Another concern is as 5G will need so many more towers, there may be resistance by some people and in some areas to installing these small cell towers almost everywhere. In the Internet of Things, or IoT, the vision is where every internet-connected device can share data with one another. Some examples are smart vehicles could “talk” to one another creating an awareness of speeds, direction, and braking in order to prevent collisions. 5G could also lead to self-driving vehicles of all types from taxis, public buses, ambulances to drones and provide reliable traffic navigation. Beyond transportation, the health industry could undergo huge changes such as telemedicine, remote recovery, physical therapy via augmented reality and even possibly surgery could be conducted by machines. According to MWCA, their predictions are that only 49% of connected devices will be 5G in 2025, with 4G still holding 45%. 5G is coming and with it, many new possibilities will be available, but 4G will still be around for quite a while as well. As adoption grows and the carriers invest more and more resources into the new technology, IoT will continue to expand be an even larger part of all of our lives, so understanding 5G is important to you and your business.