In the world of telecommunications, 5G is the winning topic in terms of buzz and hype. From vastly increased network speeds to latency improvements that would enable technologies such as autonomous driving and augmented reality to really take off, it’s easy to see why providers and consumers are excited by the prospect of 5G.
But despite the news that UK mobile operators have just forked out close to £1.4 billion for 5G spectrum, there is a significant proportion of experts who are unconvinced by the proclaimed advancements this new infrastructure will bring, as well as how fast we will see this change.
As a Technology Managed Service provider, we’re interested in the benefits this could bring our enterprise & industrial customers. So, the question is, is 5G all marketing hokum or is there real and tangible benefits for businesses in the next 2 to 5 years?
It’s very hard to deny what 5G will, in theory, offer consumers and businesses alike a monumental boost in what we’ll be able to achieve.
First, let’s talk speed. According to 5G.co.uk, 5G will bring theoretical download speeds of up to 10Gbps, which is as much as 100 times faster than what we’re currently getting with 4G.
But it’s not the speed that’s got many in the industry excited; it’s the latency.
Latency, or what’s known as “lag” to your gaming teenager, is the delay before data transfer even begins. Latency can be a bit of a deal breaker when it comes to introducing new technologies that rely on a near-instant response, such as automated vehicles and sensors in fast moving environments. Current 4G infrastructure comes with a latency of 45ms, whereas 5G is being branded as being capable of up to 1ms latency in theory.
Theory is a magical thing, but for theory to be valuable to industry and enterprise, it needs to deliver.
There’s no argument that 5G is on the way, but much of the criticism of the technology is about the when. It’s likely that we will see 5G-ready phones and devices coming our way within the next two years, but it’s unlikely the infrastructure will be in place for your organisation to be able to take full advantage. Take a look at Garter’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies from July 2017, and you’ll see they’ve placed 5G as 5-10 years off reaching its plateau, and well and truly on its way to the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”.
Next, there are still improvements on the way for the existing 4G LTE before most need to concern themselves with 5G. “LTE Advanced-Pro”, which will likely be dubbed something like 4.5G is still to be introduced, however, there is a fear that marketers will run with this concept and begin to call it “5G” anyway, even if real 5G isn’t here yet.
Finally, like 4G today, don’t expect to be able to access 5G everywhere when it’s finally introduced. Thanks to the higher frequencies used in 5G technology, these higher bands don’t carry information as far as 4G & 3G, meaning we’ll be installing a lot more and smaller antennas to boost signals and capacity. Read: great for cities, not great for rural areas.
There is promise in 5G and it’s not all doom and gloom; just don’t expect to see these changes overnight when 5G is announced.
5G looks set to be a phenomenal consumer tool when it eventually lands, but what about for the enterprise?
Well, as much as on-the-go Cloud collaboration is currently available, this technology just might be the thing that makes it a viable option when staff members are out and about. Much improved network speeds and latency will mean “real-time” collaboration is, in fact, real-time, and not delayed by 30 seconds because of a poor connection.
Next, 5G may help drive down the cost of that costly leased line in a business, as the network speeds can operate as a genuinely viable failover option for your data connectivity. We could based on its reliability and access, see 5G becoming the de-facto secure failover option for businesses.
5G will likely bring a number of benefits to the enterprise that haven’t been invented yet, in particular involving IoT devices, but don’t bank on this happening in the next 5 years.
For manufacturing, processing, logistics, construction and the other industrial fields, 5G will have less to do with connectivity for mobile communications, and more to do with the IIoT and sensor technologies.
With super-fast latency and the capacity to handle significantly more devices than was previously possible, 5G is perhaps geared more towards the IoT than it is to network coverage for portable devices. Digital twinning, that is providing a real-time digital representation of your operation, will become a potential reality down to a level not seen before, thanks to thousands more sensors and superfast latency.
However, solutions exist today that may be able to solve your manufacturing problems without waiting for 5G to come along. Low-power communication protocols such as SigFox, LoRaWAN and even plain old WiFi are becoming increasingly affordable for industrial companies to take advantage of.
5G will no doubt be transformative, and it’s likely the true benefit hasn’t even been invented yet. But there’s little chance it’s going to happen in the next 5 years, and as 5g.co.uk state, “full nationwide coverage is years, potentially decades, away.”
We put this one as a technology to keep an eye on, as we most definitely will be.
Posted by Jordan Maciver on Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Where do you start getting to grips with Industry 4.0? Our pilot project ideas will guide you on the right path to building your Smart Factory.
Shay Ritchie is one of our two most recent additions at Exmos HQ, joining the team as an Apprentice Office Administrator. Here’s Shay’s account of what it’s like joining Exmos and the steep learning curve that comes with joining the company.
Fast growth might be seen as a great thing, but if your IT can't keep up it could end up causing more trouble than its worth. How can you avoid the IT pitfalls that can come along with fast business growth?