5G and IoT: More Evolutionary Than Revolutionary for Now
Hurry up and Wait
Like every technology rollout, expect 5G and what it’s offering to take some time. “Some IoT apps will benefit from 5G at an earlier stage than others,” said John Delaney, associate vice president of European Mobility at IDC. “In the first two years, you need to think about 5G as a fast pipe like 4G, but with no fundamentally new capabilities,” he said. “In that phase, the IoT apps which benefit from high bandwidth will potentially benefit from 5G.” Delaney pointed to utilities, which won’t be early beneficiaries, but said camera-equipped drones will. This first phase will boost a “relatively small number” of IoT apps, but they’ll be high value ones.
When 5G hits its second phase, though, in 2021/2022, low latency will improve networking capabilities and remote command and control should be possible, Delaney said. “There will be a whole other class of applications in the second phase which will benefit from the fast response of the network enabled by 5G. That’s just something 4G can’t do at all.” By 2024 or 2025, the third phase should arrive and bring with it the promise of dramatically improved machine to machine communication, Delaney said. That’s the time frame when the number of truly “smart” cities should jump. “Today each individual app may not test the limit of 4G,” he said. “But when you start to think about parking, lighting and refuse management in aggregate, the connected devices are too numerous for 4G to support.”
Over the Edge
No matter the pace of 5G’s rollout, there’s more to think about than just speed. Ovum’s chief analyst Mike Sapien wants engineers to think of 5G as the opportunity to build software defined virtualized networks and consider what that could mean for new types of IoT devices and applications. “5G is a more distributed virtualized network and it’s going to allow many low latency apps,” Sapien said. “A distributed network involved in 5G may decide not to send everything to a central location to not overload the network. You’ll be able to parse data and filter data at the edge fairly efficiently using large databases that collect all the information but keep the detailed data at the edge. That’s not something that is currently efficiently possible with 4G.”
In fact, upwards of 60 percent of IoT-generated data might never need to be sent to a centralized location, said Paul Bevan, research director for IT infrastructure at Boor. “Much of the (remaining data) will be operational sense and respond data between IoT devices and local consolidation servers or gateways that will have a short shelf life and only need to be stored locally,” he said. “In other words it is processed at the edge and never hits the 5G network at all.”