How is 5G different from other cellular networks?
5G in IoT has arrived and it has been a really long journey! Going back over 3 decades, the 2G network by GSM was built to be a communication or mobile phone network. The first type of data sent successfully over a network was extremely low-power consuming, for example, a text message! But over the course of time, the amount of data transmitted has grown significantly. With the introduction of 3G and 4G networks, the increase in speed has made it possible to provide access to mobile internet.
This increased performance was followed by a reduction in network latency or the time delay between data transmission. If Visio was a failure when launched, WhatsApp and FaceTime video calls have proved to be benchmarks of success. The transition from 3G to 4G enabled this boom in use, which is now well established. These communication elements have initiated major social and lifestyle changes among us; our daily lives being imbued by these network technologies.
However, unlike 5G, the 2G, 3G and 4G networks were simply, in essence, person-to-person mobile telecommunication networks intended for consumer use and, incidentally, their businesses.
Gradually as the concept of IoT grew popular among businesses, the needs evolved as well. It has now become a question of connecting millions of people with billions of devices and objects surrounding them, altogether. This includes connecting energy grids, vehicles, planes, tablets, pharmacies, telemedicine booths, microphones, elevators, cash registers, harvesters; possibly anything that can communicate data and can be connected to the internet or other devices in the network.
There were over 10 billion IoT connected devices by 2021 across the world. The forecasted figure for 2030 would bring the total close to 26 billion devices. Due to this exponential rise in the implementation of connected devices, the global IoT industry will witness an annual growth rate of 19.6% between 2021 – 2030 with the market capital expected to reach 4421 billion US$ by the end of the nine-year period.
As many future and present connected devices will require faster network speeds and larger bandwidth allocations that will challenge the constrained capabilities of its predecessor networks, 5G has increased throughput and lower latency to support applications requiring large volumes of data transfer at high speeds. Comparing 5G with the predecessor 4G, it can support 100 times more devices over the same area due to its larger network capacity.
Further extension of the capabilities of 5G in IoT will be supported by the integration of low power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies that are specifically designed for achieving high performance in IoT environments. The integration of LTE-M and NB-IoT, LPWAN technologies, with 5G will primarily be used to serve the Massive IoT applications which will connect devices, anywhere in the range of a few million or more, that require high energy efficiency for data transmission of small volumes between a huge network of connected objects. Examples of such applications include smart cities, industrial IoT, connected cars and global asset tracking.
Different 5G technologies
Although 5G in IoT is still in its initial stages, the very first 5G modems have started to appear and a few networks are showing the first antennas with a preview of 5G, as frequencies begin to get allocated. So, businesses can now begin to take interest in 5G in order to have private networks on their campuses or industrial sites. However, projects of today and for a few years to come still have an interest in relying on 4G, to benefit from an international service that covers a wider geographic territory.
In the mainstream news, 5G refers to 5G Non-Stand Alone (5G NSA), meaning a 4G core network with updated “5G” antennas. It benefits in obtaining increased bandwidth for the user. This can be achieved by using higher frequencies in one of the two following ways:
- Using a frequency in the range of 3.5Ghz band which results in a slight increase.
- Using a higher frequency range, also called millimeters, between 24Ghz to 30Ghz. This results in a massive increase in bandwidth, but the antenna coverage is very limited. So much so that it requires the user to stand and stay put or else risk losing the connection.
Some carriers in select markets may use low band technologies, which do not bring any value as per the current advancements. Both the above-mentioned techniques are being deployed in the US, whereas in Europe the focus is currently on the former approach as health studies have yet to be concluded before Europe can move on to using higher range frequencies.
Next comes 5G Standalone (5G SA), which is basically the fully packed 5G. Deemed as the future, it will bring substantial innovation in the way we control the connectivity, frequency bands, quality of service, and manage numerous devices. Unlike 5G NSA which makes you fall back to 4G or even 3G when your device does not support VoLTE, the standalone technology will support 5G enabled voice calls, but it is still a few years wait for the public radio networks.
Use cases and applications of 5G in IoT
1. Connected Workplace
The data going back and forth between company employees require high throughput and minimal latency. With more data transferred in each time frame with near to no latency, 5G will be crucial to keep employees on the same page, working in different corners of the world. It will further increase the remote capabilities of employees, allowing them to be even more flexible in terms of choosing the location from where they may wish to work. Having an efficient functioning connected remote workforce will dramatically reduce costs for companies.
The massive bandwidth allocation for 5G makes it possible to establish private radio networks in factories, keeping all machinery and equipment always interconnected irrespective of their location on the premises. This results in negligible connectivity interruptions on the production line. On the nearest horizon, we see tremendous traction on this topic as businesses, of today, want to create a wireless connected environment in their factories. Using 5G in IoT, they can deploy their own private network and achieve their targeted Industry 4.0 goals.
Due to the benefit of being able to transmit latency free data at high speed, 5G will also support real-time monitoring on field and factory floors with artificial intelligence (AI) and provide remote expertise for maintenance using augmented reality (AR). By leveraging cloud intelligence to get access to maximized computing power, the 5G network technology will, eventually, help in making IoT devices cheaper and more accessible.
3. Transportation and Logistics
5G in IoT enables real-time trip monitoring for fleet vehicles wherein they can exchange information with each other and roadside sensors, for example, updates about traffic conditions and local weather. As 5G networks support large volumes of data transmission with optimal speed, agility, and efficiency, it is increasingly used to connect ports across the world and trigger IoT applications such as automation of asset tracking and predictive maintenance for ships and cargoes to ensure secure shipping and lower maintenance costs.
4.Retail and Marketing
The introduction of 5G networks has kickstarted the era of hyperconnectivity which will revolutionize the customer shopping experience, both, in-doors and remotely. 5G in retail will enable features like contactless checkouts using AR, discrete pricing and promotions for in-store visits, and wayfinding in mega shops. To enhance retail operations, 5G will enable stock and shelf monitoring in real-time helping retailers to maintain an updated inventory.
5G in IoT will benefit brands by transmitting data heavy content without delays making it possible to have contextualized billboards that can instantly display weather updates, location status and real-time generated videos from the cloud onto the streets.
Key 5G takeaways
- 5G in IoT is a powerful option for large outdoor and indoor areas, such as factories, warehouses, shipping ports, mines, and large campuses. Such environments are heavily mechanized and dense with IoT devices, many of which are highly mobile.
- Essentially, Private 5G networks act as an extension of the enterprise LAN network that uses 5G technology to enable the extension and connect users and devices to that LAN.
- LPWAN technologies, LTE-M and NB-IoT, will boost the potential of 5G in supporting massive machine-type communications (mMTC) where supply of optimal power efficiency will be of utmost importance over the transmission speed and network latency.
- 5G in IoT offers an additional layer of security in industrial environments as the network is deployed entirely on the enterprise side, meaning it is completely under their control. All the data stays on-site, and existing enterprise security policies and procedures are applied to the 5G network. This contrasts with other telecommunication networks that are generally designed to support larger groups of users with diverse needs.
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