As you may have seen Telstra have been heralding the arrival of 5G in Australia, with CBD areas across 10 cities already enabled, and another 25 set to receive coverage in the next 12 months after a successful series of trials in the Gold Coast around the Commonwealth Games.
With the emergence of any new wireless technology comes the inevitable question ‘Should I upgrade?’
Let’s look at the biggest drawcard for 5G as promoted by the carriers – Speed. Theoretically 5G offers speeds of up to 20 times the streaming speed of 4G.
However, M2M and IoT devices such as asset trackers only send small amounts of data at intervals, as opposed to high-intensity data usage applications such as video streaming. There is no requirement for such high speeds to send a few kilobytes of data, even if a device is messaging every minute or so.
Additionally, battery-powered devices often require low-power usage, as they are required to run over long periods, and often travel across remote areas. Naturally, high-intensity data requirements are going to take a toll on battery life. This is where Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) over 4G/LTE such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1 come into play.
They are ideal for IoT applications, whether it is a few devices out in the field, or thousands. They offer widespread, highly-directional network coverage, at a low cost. By contrast, 5G networks require more cells, as higher-frequency networks broadcast in a directional pattern.
The case for requiring 5G speeds in telematics and asset tracking applications is currently for fringe applications that stream data 24/7 for highly critical diagnostics, pulling every bit of available diagnostic information from the vehicle, asset or an array of sensors and cameras outputting at 4K resolutions.
The other factor to consider is that while 5G is being rolled out in many countries across Europe and Asia, this technology is still in its infancy and is going to require a lot of ‘tweaking’ before it’s as stable as existing 4G/LTE networks. While handset manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Huawei have the luxury of billions of ‘guinea pigs’ testing their devices and rolling out regular firmware updates to stay in sync with the network. IoT module and device manufacturers typically work in quantities reaching the upper hundreds of thousands so bugs may be slower emerging and fixed.
This isn’t to say that 5G will never be the right technology for these particular IoT applications, in fact one of the unsung heroes of 5G is higher levels of network segregation. Much like how Cat-M1 and NB-IoT allow network operators to partition network traffic and bandwidth to sacrifice speed for capacity 5G will expand this capability exponentially, potentially giving rise to a true ‘pay for what you use’ type model for both speed and data consumption.
At M2M One we saw first-hand the pain caused by the 2G shutdown and understand how difficult it can be to migrate fleets of remote devices to a new technology. This is why we want to urge customers who are using 4G/LTE and its LPWAN derivatives not to panic, but instead stay the course with the technology now becoming more widely available, cost-effective and stable. Now is still a great time to start rolling out 4G/LTE powered devices for asset tracking and telematics use.
If you want to learn more about 5G, 4G/LTE and all things IoT we encourage you to come and find M2M One at stand B18 at Telstra Vantage (4th – 5th September 2019 in Melbourne) where we hope to learn more about Telstra’s plans for M2M and IoT in a 5G world.
If you’re in the vehicle and asset monitoring space and unable to attend Telstra Vantage be sure to visit M2M One at stand 429 at National Roads & Traffic (17-18 September 2019 in Melbourne) where we will be helping customers in transport and infrastructure connect assets, vehicles and devices to Australian IoT networks.