The 5G question

27th June 2019
Anna Flockett

The 5G network is currently a hotly debated issue worldwide. Parts of the population see the new mobile communication generation as a danger for their health. The fact that the 5G network must also be set up with the previously valid security limits for wireless communication, and that future-proof 5G networks can only be set up with small cells in order to cover the needs of future mobile communication, to date does not influence these discussions.

At London Tech Week there was a panel discussion based around anticipating the strategic and tactical implications of European 5G roll-out on IoT strategy, where Greig Paul, the Lead Mobile Networks and Security Engineer at the University of Strathclyde started the conversation by stating: “Is it perhaps time for 5G and IoT to come together, I think it is.”

Toby White, VP Digital Engineering at Wärtsilä Corporation commented: “The cost structure is changing dramatically, bandwidth is changing and connectivity is growing. So now we are faced with some very interesting issues that we need to be able to harmonise and 5G really helps with this.”

Within the discussion the panel agreed that AI is the source of all big data, and IoT is on the roadmap. Marco Contento, VP Technologies and Pre-Sales at Telit added to this by saying: “4G made such big waves when it first came in, and essentially it paved the way for 5G, so 5G is going to make an even bigger impact and then make room for something even bigger!?”

Speaking from all the work he has done with students when it comes to 5G, and the companies he has worked with that implement 5G across the country, Paul said: “5G does make an impact, even in rural areas. I have spoken to people who have worked in whiskey breweries, and salmon farming where 5G has changed their business incredibly. It’s funny because you look at these beautiful quiet green fields and you just don’t realise below the surface there is so much technology and capabilities there. People don’t understand the extent to which 5G is now commercially and readily available in rural areas.”

When asked if 5G works well in the UK, and is the answer for the future, White commented: “5G does fit well as there is an ever-increasing demand for data. Take cruise ships as one example, there is an increasing demand offshore for data – now you have thousands of connected people, including kids wanting to check Instagram, parents wanting to watch Netflix and check their emails, and grandparents wanting to receive and send their holiday WhatsApp pictures, the need for large amounts of data away from land is at the highest it’s ever been and as I say will only grow.”

White added: “But we need to ask, is all data valuable? It all boils down to the use-case at hand. No its not all valuable, but some of it is very useful so it’s important how we effectively use it.”

Mostly, when we speak about 5G we are too general and vague. One thing that was clear from London Tech Week was that 5G was designed to be used as a portfolio of different technologies. Some of the technologies in the portfolio, yes 5G will replace, but some of them it will complement and aid in their growth. Stephen Bell, Senior Analyst at Heavy Reading, and moderator of the panel stated: “5G is a combination of many technologies, so it’s not just as easy as saying yes it can do X, Y and Z.”

To conclude the panel, the speakers agreed that yes in some ways 5G has done wonders for technology, and the IoT world, but we are not there yet. Paul expressed: “There is still some sorting out and smoothing over to be done when it comes to the European 5G roll-out. I recently spoke to a mobile network that had better coverage out at sea than they did on land - that doesn’t make sense.”

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