Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

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Why We Need 5G. Eventually. And Why We'll Get It

The next generation of cellular communications is a hotly debated topic, one reason being uncertainty about the technology, the other being the rationale for developing it.  Do we really need a download data rate of 20 Gbps?  We don't.  

 
We need 5G's high-speed performance because capacity is a function of bandwidth and the market is consuming bandwidth at an alarming rate.   Relative to data consumption in 2009, the figure for 2014 is over 35 times higher, driven by the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets.  Moreover, there is no sign of a slowdown.

Therefore a significant increase network capacity is needed and this can only be realized via a significant increase in bandwidth. Fast transmissions free up capacity for other users and their data requirements. This is just as much an issue for IoT devices having low data rate requirements as it is for phones and tablets. Another performance target is an average data transmission of 100 Mbps for over one million IoT devices within one square kilometer.
 

5G Technologies

LTE represented a quantum-sized step from 3 to 4G that involved next-generation technology and a nailed-down standard.  This time it's different: very different.
 
Carrier aggregation is used in LTE-Advanced in order to increase the bandwidth and take the data download rate to 3 Gbps, however it isn't just about faster rates. LTE-A includes new transmission protocols that squeeze more bits into 10 MHz channels, multiple-antenna schemes and small cells that together will deliver higher network capacity, more consistent connections, and cheaper data.

So far so good, but how is the industry going to get from 3 Gbps to 20 Gbps, and do so when the ITU is still considering which technologies will be incorporated in the 5G standard? Nevertheless the ITU has clarified its plan to commercialize 5G networks by 2020.  That is the deadline on which the industry is focusing.


A historic note

It takes around ten years to finalize new cellular standards.  Analog 1G was introduced in 1981.  The first 2G system was commercially deployed in 1992 and the first 3G system appeared in 2001. Verizon Wireless Launched LTE in 2010: fast forward ten years and you get to the commercialization of 5G networks by 2020.