Avoid an IoT false start: Critical 5G considerations


By Kevin Hasley, head of product at RootMetrics

With commercial and public rollouts of 5G well underway across Europe and the rest of the world, the promise and anticipation are giving way to first-hand experience for many.

As we have seen in our testing in several cities across the world with 5G deployment underway, download speeds can be lightning quick and truly transform users’ experiences of everyday tasks on a mobile device.

But 5G’s transformational potential is not just about raw speed. The capacity, reliability, and ultra-low latency required for mission critical services and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) depends upon this important generational update.

History has taught us that major network infrastructure upgrades do not happen overnight, and there are always teething problems. The trouble is that organisations that wait for the technology to operate perfectly may well cede competitive advantage. So how do you get started without creating more headaches?

The current IoT landscape
IoT isn’t new but future growth is expected to jump forward dramatically from where we’re at. If you look at today’s IoT networks, they are largely built on the Cat-M and Cat-1 standards. While those Cat-M and Cat-1 standards have provided a great first step, use cases remain limited and they don’t offer enterprise customers the flexibility needed to expand in the future.

Why 5G matters to IoT and what to look for
Current IoT technologies will continue to play a role in our connected lives and are helping create a pathway to the future. But as IoT and the connected community continue to develop, no single technology will be able to meet all demands, at all times. This is what makes 5G critical to the future of IoT; delivering fast speeds, increased capacity and incredibly low latency. Therefore, 5G will play a key infrastructure role for IoT growth.

Enterprises will find 5G able to handle not just one or two IoT requests but rather a network foundation that will be able to seamlessly cover all types of IoT traffic, from low-power sensors computation-heavy artificial intelligence (AI) applications to data-hungry workstation computers.

Location could matter
The future is bright for IoT applications built on top of 5G. But during initial rollouts, location will matter. Eventually, 5G will become the default cellular technology and cover areas as diverse as dense urban centres to rural geographies. But no new technology becomes ubiquitous overnight.

While 5G-powered IoT could help radically transform farming and agriculture, that coverage just isn’t there yet. Until 5G becomes universal, enterprises that want to take advantage of 5G’s capabilities will need to assure coverage exists where they are located. We might even see a scenario where an enterprise chooses to build or develop a location precisely because it has strong 5G coverage and performance.

Different industries have different IoT (and 5G) demands
Not all industries need the same thing from IoT. For some enterprises, broad and consistent coverage is most important. For industries that rely on massive numbers of sensors in the field, capacity might be even more important. But other IoT applications will require 5G to first fulfil its promise of ultra-low latency and ultra-reliable connections.

For critical healthcare applications, nothing less than near-instantaneous and error-free connections will be acceptable. In this sense, we could see a phased IoT growth path, with present-day 5G able to support non mission-critical IoT applications and industries that require ultra-low latency performance developing farther down the line.

Government involvement will play a role as well
The growth of 5G-enabled IoT will be impacted by the uneven pace and demands of regulatory approval. Different areas across the globe, or even from municipality to municipality, have different regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome.

From spectrum availability and auctions to mast placement and mast density, the path to full 5G-enable IoT varies by location. The countries and cities that lead the way for 5G will be giving a leg up to IoT growth as well.

The underlying takeaway here is that to appropriately maximise IoT’s capabilities at each stage in the journey, you need to fully understand the real world realities of 5G connectivity and the immediate roadmap in any given facility or geography. The alternative is the equivalent of training for a flat track marathon, only to face 20-plus miles of rolling hills after the first bend. Don’t hit the wall!


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