IoT Hacking Series #10: How does 5G fit into IoT?

Tags: IoT
A picture of Ken-Tristan  Peterson
Written by
Ken-Tristan Peterson

5G will boost bandwidth, speed, capacity, and efficiency while reducing latency. We've discussed the new technologies enabling the advancement of 5G.

In this article, we concentrate on the benefits for the end-user. Will 5G revolutionise the IoT and M2M market? Which hardware supports 5G? Will you need to get a 5G compatible SIM card?

All these questions and more will be answered in this post.

Coverage

Even though you might be interested in 5G, most of us can't use 5G at our current location yet.

Ookla (better known as speedtest.net) is publishing weekly updates of 5G deployments worldwide on an interactive map.

Ookla 5G deployments map. Updated 12.02.2021

Remember that even though carriers have claimed to release 5G in a particular place, this doesn't mean that it will cover the whole city yet. As we know by now, 5G doesn't travel through obstacles very well. This means that operators have to set up many small cells, and this will take time.

Furthermore, most of the press releases don't specify if it was deployed in Standalone (True 5G) or Non-Standalone mode (4G based). Most of today's 5G networks are based on 4G and lack the Standalone mode's benefits.

Hardware availability

We know that there are smartphones with 5G hardware built-in. Our interest is IoT & M2M devices.

Here's the list of a few 5G hardware modules that Quectel, SIMCom, Telit, uBlox and other cellular hardware manufacturers provide for IoT/M2M devices.

Telit:

uBlox:

SIMCom:

Quectel:

Sierra Wireless:

Fibocom:

When selecting modules, you need to be aware that even if they are promoted as 5G modules, they are ultra high bandwidth LTE modules, such as the Telit LM960.

Pricing is another shortcoming. 2G modules can cost as little as 6-8 USD, 3G modules around 15 USD, and 4G modules around 20 USD. In contrast, Telit LM960 costs a lofty 200 USD. Not to mention that real 5G modules with Millimetre Waves and Sub-6Ghz can be priced as high as 1,000 USD.

SIM card compatibility

There have been issues with SIM cards and Radio Access Technologies with previous launches of novel cellular technology in terms of compatibility.

With the launch of 3G, you might remember that you needed to change the SIM card to get full advantage of the 3G network. The special features for 3G did require a newer USIM card, which was meant for UMTS networks.

4G didn't introduce any need for a new SIM application; therefore, all 3G SIMs are capable of 4G.

Do we need to change the SIM to get access to 5G?

In short - No!

You can be sure that you will access the 5G network with a regular USIM without issues. Your current SIM will be enough to authenticate yourself on the 5G network.

But, if we dive deeper, then the answer is more complicated. For example, SIMalliance has proposed using new "5G SIMs," which will improve security and extend battery life. It's especially crucial for IoT use cases.

SIMalliance has identified three different types of 5G SIM:

  • Transitional SIM - your current SIM that can access 5G networks. It will help 5G adoption but lacks core features.

  • 5G SIM - leverages the full power of 5G. This SIM will be the most secure SIM to date and also backward compatible with previous technologies.

  • Low power SIM - optimised for 5G, NB-IoT, and LTE-M.

You can look at the SIMalliance 3GPP R15 5G SIM card definition for more details.

Is 5G beneficial for IoT?

By now, you might be thinking, why is 5G better for IoT devices than currently popular NB-IoT and LTE-M?

That's a valid point as 5G mainly focuses on speed, but many IoT devices are not dependent on speed. Sensor reporting measurements sent once a day don't need anything faster than speeds of 60-90 kbit/s currently offered by NB-IoT and LTE-M.

Why is there so much hype about 5G revolutionising IoT?

In short, 5G might revolutionise and enable IoT applications that aren't available yet. Mainly those which need high-speed data transfer and low latencies.

One example of 5G benefitting in IoT would be using sensors embedded into a road, street lamps or traffic lights to communicate with each other and the passing car in nearly real-time for improved safety. From the technology side, this would mean millions of devices in small areas. Only 5G will be able to handle such a high density of connected devices.

Another example could be smart autonomous drones that need to position themselves regarding their exact location and height at high speed. As existing 4G technology comes with bad latency for these use cases, 5G will solve these latency issues to control and transmit live video views.

Industry 4.0 and manufacturing could start exchanging data between robots, sensors and humans for efficient collaboration. Without 5G, manufacturing equipment needs to be wired in place to allow reliable, low latency, high-speed data connection. Not ideal for moving machines in manufacturing facilities.

eHealth or connected healthcare will benefit from the introduction of 5G as well. Faster medical image transmission, remote surgeries (telesurgery) and improved reliability are set to transform the healthcare industry. Technology advancements in healthcare will give quicker access to help and bring it to rural areas.

These are only a few of all the potential 5G use cases in IoT.

We realise that 5G in IoT is more focused on high data consumption and low latency while still improving these devices' battery life over 4G. But, we can't expect 5G's power consumption to be as good as NB-IoT or LTE-M, which are the best technologies in the future for low power and low bandwidth use cases.

1oT is looking forward to the deployments of Standalone 5G, making new IoT and M2M solutions possible. We also keep an eye on further developments regarding 5G SIM cards and hope to provide these services to our clients in the future.

For any questions about 5G, feel free to contact us at hacking[at]1oT.com.

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