5G and IoT: Ushering in a New Era

By Mr. Somenath Nag, VP – Marketing & Corporate Strategy, Calsoft Inc


The world is witnessing a rapid proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), paving the way for a smarter, dynamic, and more connected society. By 2025, the number of connected devices is estimated to reach around 30 billion. And one of the key enablers contributing to this rise is the launch of 5G telecom networks. 5G technology promises ubiquitous connectivity, higher data rate, ultra-low latency, and enhanced energy efficiency for billions of connected devices in the coming years. In fact, 5G technology has been designed to connect millions of different devices (sensors) as well as machines (drones, robots, vehicles) to the global-scale IoT network. So, let’s explore the role of 5G in the connected world of IoT. 

Impact of 5G on IoT

So far, the cellular generations have evolved as per the nature of services demanded by end-users. 1G was an analog technology supporting mobile voice calls, while 2G enabled message service, capacity, and coverage. Thereafter, 3G provided high data speeds facilitating the mobile broadband experience. It paved the way for 4G and 5G – enabling higher speed in communications. 

Today, 5G supports multiple use-cases with diverse requirements such as enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC), and ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC).

It is obvious that 5G enables a unified connectivity platform for IoT across verticals, namely:

  • Precision Agriculture: Smart sprinklers, supply chain analytics, and autonomous trucks
  • Smart Healthcare: Medical wearables, remote robotic surgeries, providing patient’s vital insights through automated records, and remote patient care
  • Industrial IoT or Smart Manufacturing: Factory automation, on-premises edge computing and analytics, digital twin, and predictive maintenance.
  • Digitized Education: Remote learning and connected classrooms with immersive XR and personalized learning experiences 
  • Smart Cities: Smart transportation with real-time traffic management, smart parking facilities, advanced public safety with Ultra High Definition (UHD) surveillance camera, and 3D live map updates on emergency scenarios. 
  • Intelligent Retail: Next-level retail experience through electronic price tags, pick-up and return kiosks, speedy drone delivery, and shoppers’ analytics

Similarly, Private Network deployments are foreseen as an ideal solution for massive IoT and M2M communications. With Private 5G, key stakeholders such as Communication Service Providers (CSPs), along with cloud providers and telco vendors can leverage cost-effective deployments and improve time-to-market (TTM).  Private 5G also incorporates capabilities to enhance commercial and modernized business models.

5G Network Slicing is another promising aspect to enable massive IoT applications. In the network slicing paradigm, a physical network can be split into multiple logical networks and effectively allow multi-tenancy through shared and virtualized network infrastructure.  However, in the future, to efficiently expand the IoT market and enable its value-added services, migrating from the current cloud-centric intelligence to distribute intelligence paradigm is essential. Furthermore, the integration of 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve distributed functionalities and enrich the user experience across new verticals and newer use cases. This presents a new generation of Data Centers (DCs) known as micro–Data Centers (µDCs), which are essentially compact traditional DCs. µDCs will employ Lean Computing in conjunction with ETSI NFVI or Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) frameworks. Such µDCs can be powered by a local smart grid with battery backup ensuring extreme energy efficiency to serve massive or critical IoT applications.

Enabling IoT Innovations with 5G

5G innovations for IoT support a broad set of devices for all spectrum bands (low/mid and high bands) and types (licensed/unlicensed and shared spectrum). They enable both public and private networks. Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 15 to 18 drives the 5G expansion for IoT. 3GPP Release 15 to 17 focuses on the unified and scalable air interface 5G New Radio (NR) to support the coexistence of a wide range of 5G device categories. Release 17 introduces 5G NR Light bringing new capabilities for IoT such as optimized power consumption and coverage recovery through side links. 3GPP Release 16 and 17 comprise positioning enhancements such as 3D-positioning, cm-level accuracy, reducing positioning latency, and enhancements in reliability in specific areas like Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) and factory positioning.

5G also enables the XaaS (“Everything-as-a-Service”) model with cloud computing and virtualization principles for the growth of the IoT market.  5G XaaS includes Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Software as a Service, Platform-as-a-Service, Communication-as-a-Service, Management-as-a-Service.

This model simplifies the use-case deployment by cutting down the costs, increasing network scalability and flexibility, improving security, and enabling quicker modifications of services. 

The Way Forward

Technology is growing at a faster pace than ever. With the advent of 5G, innovative business models and revenues will soon be generated more easily. The 5G network has also been designed in an all-encompassing manner – from quickly deploying customized IoT services to catering to the needs of multiple vertical industries. Going forward, 5G will be the most significant technology fostering the evolution of IoT and smart connectivity.