CES: 5G and the Internet of Things Take First Steps – Part 1

For several years, the Internet of Things (IoT) and next-generation 5G networks have been evolving on parallel tracks. From autonomous vehicles to smart factories and wearables, 5G promises to super-charge speed, low latency and reliability. As carriers begin to introduce 5G networks, it’s time to check-in about the state of the relationship between these two emerging technologies. We anticipate both to make a major splash at CES in Las Vegas this January. Today, we’ll look at creating applications for existing and new networks. Tomorrow, we’ll address the convergence of 5G and IoT in the enterprise space.

At Sierra Wireless, chief engineer of technology standards Gus Vos noted that 5G involves “two sets of changes to global wireless connectivity,” one “mostly incremental and evolutionary, the other set more groundbreaking and disruptive.”

He’s talking about the difference between Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies on existing 4G networks versus the 5G New Radio (NR) standard. For IoT applications that don’t “require high data transfer speeds but do require relatively low-cost devices, low amounts of power, as well as broad coverage in remote rural area and dense urban environments,” LPWA technologies on existing 4G networks is the likely solution, both now and in the future.

“There’s no need to wait for 5G if you are thinking of developing these types of applications,” he explained. “You can build and deploy LPWA IoT applications now and upgrade them later to take advantage of the enhancements that will come with 5G.”

The disruptive technology, he said, is 5G NR, which supports mmWave (millimeter wave) and will enable “ultra-high reliability, very low latency and very fast handoffs.” These capabilities will be what will make augmented and virtual realities, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and factory automation become viable. 

“Companies hoping to take full advantage of these new capabilities will need to wait until this infrastructure is more fully built out,” said Vos. “Even though widespread trials of 5G NR are already occurring,” and service has been expanding this year, “it will still be several years before 5G NR networks have the same level of ubiquity we now see with 4G networks.” 

He added that, “many of 5G’s incremental improvements are not scheduled to take place until 2020 at the earliest.”