5G is the backbone of a better-connected world. It’s enabling businesses to connect huge networks of sensors and devices, and use them to track operations, gather valuable data, and create a new generation of convenient and intuitive connected services for customers.
What is it?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular network technology. It’s capable of offering speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, enabling a huge range of data-rich mobile services — from seamless live video streaming to the continuous collection and live analysis of data from IoT devices.
This fast, low-latency network technology also enables businesses to connect a greater number of remote devices, and gather and utilize data in exciting new ways. For example, sensors deployed in trucks and packaging, when supported by a 5G network, can provide real-time visibility of your entire supply chain.
It’s this real-time capability that makes 5G such a breakthrough in remote communications. By supporting the rapid collection and sharing of data, it enables time-sensitive automated technology use cases like autonomous vehicles that have to make complex decisions in seconds.
What’s in for you?
5G gives you the chance to connect millions of IoT devices, enabling them to communicate and share data across long distances in near real-time. This allows for smarter, more autonomous interactions and operations, and the rapid capture and processing of device and environmental data.
In turn, those connected devices are enabling faster, more efficient, and better-controlled process — both within the walls of an organization, and beyond. In industrial manufacturing for example, embedding 5G-enabled sensors into products enables the manufacturer to track their performance, offer preventative maintenance, and ever offer physical products as a service — creating powerful new sources of revenue and business value.
What are the trade offs?
Currently, 5G is still in the early stages of rollout. Businesses that rush to create 5G-dependent remote services will likely encounter coverage issues — especially in rural areas — which may undermine the unbroken, real-time data streams 5G can enable.
The term 5G can correctly be used to describe signals using a wide range of radio frequencies. Generally speaking, the higher the data throughput of the frequency being used, the lower that signal is able to penetrate solid objects. Due to this and other constraints, while 5G is theoretically capable of up to 10 gigabits per second throughput, the majority of consumer implementations currently use frequencies capable of 100-400 megabits per second.
To avoid coverage issues, some businesses may want to consider building their own 5G infrastructure. This will ensure high speeds for their devices and services, but carries a huge cost, and requires you to navigate complex local regulations.
Existing applications may need to be re-architected to take advantage of the benefits of 5G. This may mean moving to more edge computing and other distributed data and compute models.
Some early adopters have also raised concerns about 5G’s impact on device battery life. For smartphone users, that’s an annoyance. But for businesses deploying discrete sensors and devices designed to go for months or even years without maintenance, shorter battery lives can seriously impact the viability of major IoT projects.
How is it being used?
5G is currently being used in three main ways:
- To support fast, low-latency automation use cases that demand high reliability, such as autonomous vehicles, or autonomous machinery
- To enable the creation and management of wide-scale Internet of Things projects like smart city initiatives, or supply chain tracking — both use cases that require thousands or even millions of dispersed connected devices to succeed
- Delivering broadband-grade connectivity to people everywhere, through mobile networks — enabling businesses to drive revenue through the delivery of data-rich services