Internet of Things is accelerating the need for 5G

Mobile technology makes a leap about every ten years” stated Steve Mollenkoft, CEO, Qualcomm Incorporated, in his keynote speech this morning on day two of Mobile World Congress. He has a point… the 1990s saw the introduction of 2G, followed by 3G in the 2000s, 4G not so long ago around 2010 and now we are talking about deploying 5G as early as 2018. Dr. Chan-Gyu Hwang, CEO, KT Corporation, excitedly announced that they will be deploying 5G in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.


South Korea the first to deploy 5G


Internet of Things, 5GOne must ask why there is so much noise around 5G, when we are lacking standards and more importantly when we are lagging behind in deploying LTE – In fact Europe is trailing behind the advanced economies of Asia and the USA in its deployment. There is, however, every reason why Dr. Hwang should be so excited and that is because South Korea has been very successful in its deployment of LTE and he stated that “Korea is the worlds most connected country, achieving 100% LTE coverage in just two years with a 63% penetration rate”.


Self-drive cars driving the need for lower latency


So what is the drive for 5G? In essence it is to solve the problems that 4G can’t currently do which Ken Hu, Deputy Chairman and Rotating CEO, Huawei nicely summed up when he stated that “4G can’t reach the number of connections needed” and there is the “problem of latency and speed”. It is clear that IoT and the new connected world is driving the need for a new faster technology with lower latency. In fact it is the driverless car which is really pushing the latency issue. 4G has a latency of about 50ms which is not good enough for self-drive cars as they require much less latency of about 1ms. This is especially important for urban driving when the driverless car will need to communicate and process with a plethora of devices and obstacles such as traffic lights, other cars, pedestrians et cetera.


5G will support the connected devices era


The importance of the need for 5G to support the increasing amount of devices connecting to the network were exemplified when Stephane Richard, CEO, Orange state that “5G will support the connected devices era”. He predicted that by 2020 there would be between “30-50 billion objects connected to the internet” and that “5G is the key to the Internet of Things world. 5G will allow the omnipresence of the internet which will help contribute to making the technology more human. The internet will be able to sense the real world better through probes and sensors and applications and services will become more relevant and aware. This will, however, require the network to support many more devices with 5G will be designed to do.


EU Commission fully behind 5G deployment


As always with the new development of technologies, there is the issue of regulation, spectrum auctions and harmonisations and the investment needed to develop and deploy. Gunther Oettinger, Commissioner, Digital Economy & society, European Commission, is fully behind pressing ahead with 5G and indeed wants Europe to become a world leader in deployment. Oettinger really stressed the need that 5G was all about innovation especially for the softwarization and virtualisation of the network which will allow the deployment of additional new services quicker. He sees it playing a large role in EU industry and 5G will allow the EU to become more competitive. The EU has given 700 million Euros to get 5G up and running. Oettinger did however realise that there is still a lot of work to do on a governmental level and that Europe needs to take a common approach to spectrum and that it needs to be harmonized across Europe and it can no longer be fragmented.


5G is definitely about tomorrow but we do need to think about it today. Devices and new services are constantly being added to the network and we need to ensure that we develop a technology that is future proved and will be deployed by operators and not make the same mistake as with what happened with 3G. Stephane Richard gave a very good sobering point as he closed and said that “Let's enjoy 4G LTE. 5G has to be launched at the perfect time for IoT revolution. We need to remember the delay between launch of 3G and delivery of services -timing is critical.”