Each year we are adding more and more devices to the internet in the form of smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, fitbits and whatnot. Our hunger for high-speed internet is increasing day by day, and our applications are becoming bandwidth-hungry that demand low latency as well. To meet these demands, cellular core has seen advancements over past few years. From 3G, LTE to 4G, we have seen increase in internet speeds.
The next revolution is coming in the form of Internet of Things that will add billions of devices to the internet. IoT’s demands are even more challenging for current cellular networks: these applications require high data rate and lowest possible latency as “things” need to communicate with each other continuously and actuators need to act according to the signals received by the sensors. Consider connected cars where they would like to send signals to each other so that brakes can be applied to avoid collision. Similarly, medical equipments would like to send the state of patients to the hospital’s server which might want to notify the doctors or any other entity in case of emergency. All of this needs to be done at a rapid pace in order to fully achieve the goals of IoT.
In such state of affairs, cellular core is going to play an important role and that’s why 5G is going to be the biggest facilitator of IoT. 5G promises to deliver a latency (time it takes to deliver data from one point to another) of 1 millisecond as compared to 10 milliseconds promised by 4G. It will also improve data rate and coverage. It will follow what is called “non-orthogonal multiple access” model that supports multiple users to share limited bandwidth channels. This will allow myriad of devices to share data in a timely manner without having to wait for other devices to use a bandwidth channel and release it. Consequently, we would be able to add indefinite number of devices to the internet without having to worry about scalability issues.
Another issue faced by IoT is that of disconnected systems. We have networks of RFID, Bluetooth, and UWB etc. that fragment the overall IoT network into multiple networks. 5G presents an opportunity to provide a unified framework for seamless connection. So in a bigger picture, like smart city, we can have a unified core network supporting all IoT devices.
5G is still in works and currently it is facing issues like global standards. A lot of research is also going on for non-orthogonal multiple access and fair sharing of resources in 5G network. Engineers expect it to arrive in 2020. However whenever it arrives, it will be able to handle 1000 times more data than today’s cellular systems and it will be roughly 200 times faster than today’s LTE that averages 40 to 50 Mbps in speed.
To support the predicted 20 billion IoT devices in 2020, we believe 5G is going to play a crucial role.