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5G & IoT: from hype to reality

A next-gen network to get REALLY excited about…

There’s no doubting it, 5G is the talk of the town & with the latest announcements of deployments in Europe (UK & Spain), 5G is rapidly developing beyond column inches & hashtags into real-world user cases.

While questions remain over a pseudo Cold War telecommunications race, the impending geopolitical battle between the United States and China, & the possible security challenge Huawei presents to 5G networks, one thing is irrefutable, & that’s the transformational impact 5G is directly & indirectly set to have on almost every element of our everyday lives.

There is more than a kernel of truth in this rhetorical excess. Not least because the next generation of essential infrastructure in most countries around the globe will be built using wireless technology.

With as much as 100 times the speed of current wireless networks & with significantly reduced latency (reducing lag-time between device & the network), we can use wireless data to enhance our interactions with the world around us & create new opportunities in diverse areas such as manufacturing, transportation, health-care, education, agriculture, & more. In short, 5G has the very real potential to enable industry 4.0 & support new services that will in-turn, drive economic growth & job creation for decades to come.

The sheer speed of 5G networks will enable 8K screening, VR projections onto air with no lag-time & could replace traditional broadband models too, but away from the benefits associated with its pure speed, many people & organisations are still confused about what the differences between 5G & its predecessors & what its industrial benefits could actually be.

Network slicing is probably the most important concept & differentiator to previous generations, as this is the way in which 5G will be able to deliver different types of service with the appropriate latency, security, quality of service, & bandwidth.

3G & 4G networks already embody the concept of slicing in the form of virtual private networks (VPNs), effectively to create separation for the different types of services. However, with 5G, this is taken a stage further in that, in addition to hard slicing (for example, using wavelengths or multi-protocol label switching), soft slicing will be used throughout the access and core.

Effectively, what this allows for is a super flexible, agile network, capable of supporting a whole range of use cases, & it’s this flexibility which links directly to the enablement of the Internet of Things (IoT), that people are getting so excited about.

Ultimately the predicted diversity of IoT use cases is the reason 5G is so highly anticipated & anybody who positions the technology merely as an enhancement to consumer mobile services is missing the fundamental point of what 5G will eventually become once technologies such as network slicing hit their stride.

With the IoT user case in mind, a study from Intel & Statista (respectively), reported that on a daily basis, connected cars currently produce 4TB of data & by 2020 the wearable tech market will create some 28PB of data each day too. Cisco anticipates that by next year the IoT will comprise of more than 30 billion connected devices & these devices alone could create some 5 quintillion bytes of data every day (that’s 2.5 followed by 18 zeros) too — now that’s a serious amount of data that will need managing!

While 5G will prove to be the true catalyst for the IoT, the analysis & management of the corresponding data is where the true value of these connected technologies really lie. With such vast amounts of data living at the edge of traditional computer networks, the IoT will put new pressures & demand upon organisations to manage, protect, analyse & use data like never before, so it’s key to get ahead of this future challenge by ensuring you have adequate data management strategies in place today.

Organisations can ill afford to ignore the transformational opportunities presented by 5G & the IoT, but they must also understand the fundamentals of the technology building blocks & associated regulatory requirements needed to make it work — only then will the full economic, societal & environmental benefits of 5G & the IoT be truly realised.

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