2018 saw the debut of 3GPP Release 15, which included the first 5G NR Standalone specifications. As well as enhanced performance, these new cellular networks will enable completely new use cases across a number of industries. Lots of tests and trials have already been done to prepare for the arrival of 5G – even before the standards were finalized.
5G networks will be faster than their 4G predecessors – in some cases by more than 10x – but this is only part of the story. The bigger impact is likely to be elsewhere, with 5G able to provide exceptionally reliable low-latency services, and support very high device densities across wide areas. This promises to unlock the door to a new range of applications.
Unleashing the potential of the Internet of Things and the Internet of Skills
Work being done on the 5G standard includes New Radio Industrial IoT (NR-IIoT), which aims to unleash new IIoT possibilities, including in factory automation, power distribution and transportation. 5G will make use of short transmission time interval (TTI) structures and Time Sensitive Networking (TSN), which can enable critical services required for genuine factory automation, for example.
Meanwhile, with latency as low as half a millisecond, five-nines availability and predictable service quality, 5G will unleash new use cases that enhance human wellbeing and safety. For example, vehicle-to-pedestrian communication will notify motorists when someone crosses a road ahead of them. Remote monitoring of people in disaster areas could enable aid workers and medical experts to help, without needing to travel to cut-off or potentially dangerous parts of the world. The latter is an example of the ‘Internet of Skills’ vision, which will be enabled by the secure and robust communication that 5G will enable.
Imagine for a moment the number of connected devices that future mobile networks will need to cater for. Industry, cities, homes and people will be even more connected than they already are. Manufacturers will be collecting more real-time data from their facilities. Smart cities may be monitoring how much waste is in each of its hundreds of public bins, or proactively managing car parks to help people find a space more quickly. All these applications will demand smart IoT devices with greater power efficiency and coverage, both of which 5G networks are set up to cater for.
Exciting growth opportunities
Ericsson recently predicted that mobile network operators’ revenues could increase 36 percent by 2026, as a result of 5G-enabled industry digitization. At the same time, it highlights why 5G-enabled applications represent such an attractive proposition for various sectors, including manufacturing and utilities. Significant operational cost savings are flagged as a particular benefit.
At u-blox, our R&D teams have been developing 5G-compatible LTE-M and NB-IoT products, to address the two main licensed cellular low-power wide-area (LPWA) standards. These are already unleashing a number of new Internet of Things (IoT) applications, notably in the industrial and consumer sectors.
The automotive industry, too, stands to benefit enormously from the next generation of cellular communication. 5G will expand cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) possibilities, delivering robust, high-speed connectivity between vehicles, infrastructure and pedestrians. C‑V2X is expected to complement 802.11p‑based V2X technology, which will provide connectivity solutions for advanced, high-end capabilities, such as vehicle platooning and semi-autonomous and autonomous driving.
With 5G set to impact so many different aspects of our lives, our development teams have been working closely with ecosystem partners to develop 5G technology specifications that enable economies of scale. The next milestone will be when phase two of the 5G NR radio standards are frozen in Release 16. This is expected to be March 2020.
So what does this mean for you? If you’re an end user waiting for 5G technology to transform the way you live or work, you’ll need to wait a little bit longer for coverage to become more widespread and robust. But if you’re looking to use 5G to revolutionize your business and empower you to lead the way in your sector, then now is the time to start exploring the possibilities.