Killer questions in IoT: Should enterprises wait for 5G to start IoT?
It seems, almost, like a daft question, except the hype around 5G is so all-consuming it threatens to eat complementary IoT technologies alive – most of which have the distinct advantage of being available already. It is dangerous ground, because IoT installations need time to mature, as one sage industry protagonist explains below; it will not do to delay.
Nevertheless, the question was asked of (our now familiar) panel at IoT Solutions World Congress 2019 in Barcelona at the end of October, following questions also about the meaning of ‘smart IoT infrastructure’ and the favourite IoT use cases. The questioning was simplistic, but effective too. And the idea, even, that enterprises should wait for 5G reflects as much the nervousness and novelty of IoT.
Of course, they should not, and the panel – comprising Sprint, Ericsson, and the LoRa Alliance, as asked – was clear in their collective response. Still, they make for decent reading, and should go down as the final say on a killer question.
Kimberly Green-Kerr, executive vice president, Sprint Business
“Being an operator, what I would say is 4G LTE will be around for the next two or three years. We are still developing a lot of applications and solutions. If you’re NB-IoT, that is perfect if your stationary – smart meters, smart water. If you’re Cat-M, that is great for wearables or transportation. Those will be around for a while.
“And you have partnerships with LoRa, where we are inside of hospitals, as a prime example. And if you connect to gateways, or ethernet, or wireless. So you should not wait. Most of these use cases are based on 4G. But what is happening with 5G is it’s just math and physics. The example is with 4G you can have about 100,000 devices in a square kilometre; with 5G, you can have one million.
“So with the use cases being developed, like in smart manufacturing, and when you get into autonomous vehicles, that is when you will need 5G. Why? Because with 4G, the latency is about 80-100ms. With 5G, it is sub-10ms. And that matters if you are in a car and need to react.
“But now is the time. There is no need to wait. Of course, there are lots of use cases – like 5G in Peachtree Corners, or 5G in smart manufacturing – but 4G is sufficient right now for what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Bo Ribbing, strategic programme director for IoT at Ericsson
“I’d second that. The mobile networks that are here today can support pretty much any use case you can imagine. Of course, with 5G you get a few more capabilities, like the very high capacities and very low latencies, and the ability to slice up the network to do various dedicated use cases, and so on.
“But most things can be done today in LTE, and we already have the capabilities to distribute networks closer locally to your use case, and so on. So absolutely, get going. And don’t underestimate the time it takes to become mature. It is better to sdtart now, and have a fully scaled solution while 5G comes around than to wait for 5G and then start building your competencies.”
Charles Paumelle, co-chair for marketing at the LoRa Alliance
“There are over 100 operators globally that have deployed LoRaWAN, as well as cellular capabilities. And the reason for that is there is a tonne of use cases for which a couple of bytes – most of the [transmissions on the] thousands of sensors we have deployed are about seven bytes – which is next to nothing, but is good enough if you want to know whether a door is opened or closed, or how many people have used a bathroom.
“The whole world does not need gigabytes per second. For most IoT use cases, it is about those small things – to stick something in that room and leave it for 10 years, without having to touch it and change the battery. That is where low power wide area (LPWA) technologies and LoRaWAN work well, and are complementary to things people want to do with facial recognition and video and real-time analytics, which use more bandwidth, and will be where 5G brings new capabilities.
“But why would you wait when there is so much you can do today to move your business into a digital business?”