This year has been widely heralded as the arrival of mainstream 5G adoption. As the service finally becomes available there will be numerous improvements, including:

  • Higher speed—data rates of up to 20 Gbps on the downlink and 10 Gbps on the uplink.
  • Improved reliability—a sustained 99.999 percent reliability level.
  • Enhanced density—the ability to support up to 1 million devices per square kilometer.
  • Better energy efficiency—a significant reduction in power consumption compared to 4G.

In addition to these benefits, 5G will transform smart city Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. As BroadbandNow’s Tyler Cooper recently told journalist John Edwards, “This field is growing rapidly, but until now there wasn’t an existing baseband capable of handling the immense data throughput needed to fully connect a city and all of its individual vehicles, handsets, traffic lights, public transport, security, and emergency services.” We can expect 5G to also improve emergency response systems and pave the way for innovations in virtual reality, augmented reality, and technologies like robotics and autonomous vehicles.

However, as Edwards put it, “While there is no denying the fact that 5G is going to deeply affect both providers and adopters, the changeover isn’t going to happen overnight.” Additionally, there are some challenges the industry must first overcome, including:

  • Infrastructure: Additional infrastructure development is required in order for 5G to reach its full potential, and it’s likely this build out will be costly and time intensive.
  • Network nuances: Edwards writes, “Deployment will be complicated by the fact that a 5G network requires the use of small cell relays, each of which possesses a transmission radius of only a couple hundred feet at best.” Providers can manage this easily enough in urban settings, but cell relays will pose economic and logistical challenges in rural areas.
  • High-speed requirements: Another adoption issue impacting rural communities is that high-speed 5G networks require a wired, fiber backhaul to function at peak capacity—and installing these outside of major metro areas can be cost prohibitive.

Despite these issues, there is no denying that we are on the cusp of major changes as a result of greater network connectivity and speed. As Edwards puts it, “As the next few months pass, there will likely be a significant increase in the number of 5G compatible handsets entering the market.”

Expect to see technology providers and industry associations looking for ways to overcome 5G challenges. Many experts Edwards interviewed for his piece pointed to the public cloud as an ideal technology to accelerate 5G adoption, and also help service providers free up budget and resources to monetize 5G build outs and drive better business results.

For more on what these results might look like, take a look at this previous APEX of Innovation post here.