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

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

In last week's blog post, we covered the technology behind 5G and brought out different modes like Standalone and Non-Standalone. Make sure to read it if you want a deeper understanding of the new cellular access technology.

This week we will concentrate more on the benefits for the end-user. Will 5G revolutionize 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.


Even though you might be interested in 5G, most reading this article can't use 5G at their current location just yet. Ookla (better known as is publishing weekly updates of 5G deployments around the world on an interactive map.

Looking at the map, we can see that currently, there are about 900 commercial available deployments. About 150 are in the test phase, and some networks have been launched only with limited access.

From bigger players, Verizon has recently made its network available in New York, Panama City, and Boise. Deutsche Telekom has released it's new network in Darmstadt, Munich, Cologne, and Bohn. These are only a few of the latest 5G deployments around the world.

Keep in mind that even though carriers have claimed to release 5G in a particular place, this certainly doesn't mean that it will cover the whole city yet. As we found out from last week's post, 5G doesn't travel through obstacles very well yet. 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 actual benefits that come with Standalone mode.

Hardware availability

We know that there are already smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S10 5G or LG V50 THINQ, which have 5G hardware built-in. But, we are not concentrated in consumer devices in this blogpost or by 1oT overall, so we’ll focus on IoT & M2M devices only.

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





Sierra Wireless:


As you can see, the list of 5G modules for IoT and M2M is not that impressive or long. On top of that, even if they are promoted as 5G modules, they usually are ultra high bandwidth LTE modules, such as the Telit LM960.

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

SIM card compatibility

In terms of compatibility, there have been issues with SIM cards and Radio Access Technologies with previous launches of cellular technology. With the launch of 3G, many of us might remember that there was a need 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 also 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 be able to 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 a bit more complicated. For example, SIMalliance has proposed to start using new "5G SIMs," which will improve security and extend battery life. It's especially crucial for IoT use cases.

For more details, you can have a look at the SIMalliance 3GPP R15 5G SIM card definition.

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 - optimized for 5G, NB-IoT, and LTE-M.

For more details, you can have a look at the SIMalliance 3GPP R15 5G SIM card definition.

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

So, why is there so much hype about 5G revolutionizing IoT? In short, 5G might revolutionize 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 the use case of sensors embedded into road, street lamps or traffic lights that will 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 with regards to 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 for controlling and transmitting live video view.

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 not only give quicker access for help but also bring it to rural areas.

These are only a few of all the potential 5G use cases in IoT. And yes, we realize that 5G in IoT is more focused on high data consumption and low latency while still improving the battery life of these devices over 4G. But, we can't expect 5G’s power consumption to be as good as NB-IoT or LTE-M, which still 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, which will make 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]

Key Takeaways

  • 5G is being slowly deployed in specific areas.

  • Today, hardware compatibility with 5G is limited and very expensive. Modules can cost up to 1,000 USD.

  • Three new SIM cards have been proposed to access 5G - Transitional SIM, 5G SIM and Low Power SIM

  • Autonomous vehicles, new technologies in eHealth, Industry 4.0 and manufacturing will benefit the most from 5G.


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