Features Hub

Smart IoT: The 5G Gold Rush — Light at the end of the tunnel?

Mon 9 Mar 2020 | Julian Watson

We speak to Julian Watson, Smart IoT speaker and IoT analyst at IHS Markit, about the state of 5G adoption in the UK

The unparalleled speed and latency of 5G looks set to provide a swathe of opportunities for UK businesses. Some of the many use cases cited include high-performance analytics at the edge and remote control and automation for manufacturing, while the network’s comparatively high-capacity also appears to be the key to connecting an army of IoT devices to enterprise networks (known as Massive IoT).

While consumer telcos and smartphone makers are busy rolling out networks and 5G-ready devices, it’s still early days for businesses seeking to unlock 5G’s benefits. As with any new technology, the exciting potential of 5G is well-documented, whereas the obstacles to implementing real-world applications have achieved less attention.

On Day Two of Smart IoT London, a panel discussion will be evaluating the state of the “5G Gold Rush”. It will critically examine whether the potential of 5G has been oversold to businesses and take a look at the verticals, applications and use cases where 5G is showing the most promise.

Taking part in the panel is Julian Watson, IoT connectivity analyst at Omdia. As part of his research into what types of wired and wireless connectivity are being embedded into IoT devices, Watson works with network equipment, semiconductor and device vendors to assess the role 5G might play across many different verticals.

Speaking to me ahead of Smart IoT, Watson cautioned that while 5G “momentum is building quickly” and attracting greater interest than when 4G arrived on the scene, there is a “serious risk of overhype”. The fact there is a Gold Rush, he said, does not necessarily mean there is a huge volume of gold to be had.

“As in other countries, 5G is a work in progress. Three out of four of the operators have launched 5G networks and commercial services, coverage is being gradually expanded and there are various efforts by government, academia and industry to investigate and develop future use cases that leverage future enhancements to the technology. Things are moving in a positive direction.”

From the standpoint of businesses, 5G ticks a number of enticing growth prospects, including greater efficiencies, faster time to market with new products, and new sources of revenues. But Watson said the theoretical boons must be weighed up with the practicalities of deployments.

Join Julian at Smart IoT London, 11-12 March, ExCeL London

PANEL: The 5G gold rush
12 Mar 2020
IoT Keynote

We have not yet past the PoC or trial stage yet for many applications. Until this necessarily preliminary work is done, we’re unlikely to see significant adoption, he says. When it comes to connecting industrial IoT sensors in critical facilities to a private 5G network, for instance, “best-effort” connectivity will not cut the mustard. These devices need to be available and accessible 24/7.

“5G is causing some excitement among vendors,” he says. “But the reality is that the performance requirements of many industry verticals, particularly around availability and latency, are going to be very challenging to achieve in a real-world environment.”

From a technical standpoint, all the foundations are there for 5G to become a business-enabling mobile network like no other. 4G LTE was initially designed to enable faster broadband speeds. Later LTE standards ushered in NB-IoT and LTE-M, addressing so-called low-power Massive IoT use cases like asset tracking and smart metering.

In contrast, since its inception, 5G has been built with use-case versatility in mind for consumers, enterprise and industry.

When you dive deeper into 5G, you actually find it offers three different types of communication: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Massive IoT and ultra-reliable low latency communications (uRLLC). As Julian notes this makes 5G inherently more complex than say the “public cloud rush” where the benefits (greater business flexibility, ubiquitous access to applications) were more generic and easy to understand.

Each of 5G’s modes of communication provides different, specific benefits. As a result, it’s more effective for businesses to view 5G through this triad, and weigh up which is most relevant to them, while being cognizant of how they can be coupled with other emerging technologies to steal an edge on competitors:

“It’s not 5G alone that will shape success in a highly competitive landscape. It’s how to apply 5G, alongside other technologies and capabilities like AI, cloud/edge to create compelling solutions for customers,” said Watson.

Looking ahead to the show, Watson said he will advise attendees to learn about 5G’s potential capabilities and think hard about their relevance to their businesses, while encouraging them to be flexible and cooperative with partners.

“Think about your operational pain points and strategic objectives and discuss with your colleagues about what 5G might bring to the table,” he added.

Experts featured:

Julian Watson

Principal Analyst, IoT
IHS Markit


Send us a correction Send us a news tip