IoT and 5G in 2019: The hype and the hope (Reader Forum)
Don’t believe the hype: 5G still likely won’t happen in 2019. Many of the 5G announcements that are getting buzz are just marketing talk. There has actually been only a few tiny deployments of 5G, and those are pre-standard. There are still too many moving parts to accurately forecast this market. 5G hardware is only being installed at the base station sites; the software is simply not ready. Phones will likely be ready by mid-2019, but that doesn’t mean anything until the rest of the pieces are in place. IoT does not need to worry about 5G until at least 2020.
T-Mobile will likely be the first with real 5G deployments, and that could mean a significant momentum shift in the industry if it executes it properly. T-Mobile has been firing on all cylinders in the 600 MHz band with a boost from emerging antenna technology. At 600 MHz, wireless signals don’t run into the same penetration issues as at 28 GHz and 38 GHz, where weather and the building’s infrastructure, such as walls and floors, cause loss in propagation and signal. After stalling on infrastructure investment while it waited for clarity on merger prospects, T-Mobile will likely be the early 5G market leader as other carriers have run into issues with the millimeter wave spectrum. When those issues are resolved in the millimeter wave spectrum, 5G will be huge, but T-Mobile, at 600 MHz, will have gotten an early market jump. Right? We didn’t expect that either!
China will continue to lead in sheer volume of new IoT deployments. China is where the United States was five to six years ago in terms of IoT, with the same use cases being deployed, such as telematics, connected medical devices and sports trackers. What’s different is the volume, which is five to 10 times what we saw for the same devices in the U.S. China will make up that five-year difference in marketplace adoption of IoT in just a year or two; by the end of 2019, they may surpass the U.S. in the number of IoT devices connected. New IoT companies are springing up in China every day, and several global IoT providers, including Taoglas, have opened or will open shop there as well.
NB-IoT and Cat-M will continue to frustrate. While carriers have touted their 5G accomplishments, much of the 4G LTE technology for IoT is not yet ready for deployment, and that has frustrated many vendors with business models relying on it. Some modules are still not certified and base station and test equipment software has still not been updated to support NB-IoT and Cat-M. There is a general feeling that carriers need to dial down their 5G rhetoric and spend 2019 fixing the issues with 4G and deliver on that promise fully.
Vendors will begin to see their perseverance in IoT pay off. Vendors that have been around since the early days of IoT are finally beginning to make hay, and 2019 is when we’ll see the real growth in the market that has been forecasted for years. The reason? Many industries are beginning to finally see scale in their IoT applications, and new applications are popping up with scale that no one forecasted. While 10,000 units of an IoT antenna used to be a big order, 100,000-unit orders are now common.
Examples: Electric scooters as a mode of last-mile transportation, which wasn’t even a thing three years ago, now number in the hundreds of thousands—soon to be millions—across the world. Street lighting, electricity meters, and other utility and smart city applications will also see exponential growth in 2019. The IoT tsunami that was predicted for the latter half of the 2010s never materialized, but instead, a series of small waves will increase IoT deployment numbers dramatically.
Businesses will further embrace cellular back-up for business continuity. Companies such as retailers, fast food chains and other businesses will further protect their interests by embracing technologies that keep their business up and running (and those credit cards swiping) during network issues. Normally an application reserved for the largest financial services companies, business continuity via cellular routers will continue to grow amongst businesses of all sizes and types as they hedge against Wi-Fi and power outages, and network downtime.
Everybody knows what IoT is. In every earnings call and research report, IoT is mentioned and businesses in all sectors realize the benefits it can bring. If they are not using it as a competitive advantage, they are scrambling to catch up with their competitors in order to implement it. Companies that work on construction sites, hospitals, oil wells and anywhere there are assets are realizing that they can save money and increase efficiency across their supply chain with IoT. It is easy and cheaper than ever before, and it appears on prime-time TV ads and newspaper articles on a daily basis.