It seems like the hype and misconceptions surrounding 5G and the hype and misconceptions around IoT have compounded to create misconceptions of mammoth proportions. Gartner has reported the results of a survey of 200 IT and business leader members of the Gartner Research Circle in which they identify IoT as the main application for 5G.
As Gartner points out: “Even once fully implemented, 5G will suit only a narrow subset of IoT use cases that require a combination of very high data rates and very low latency,” and “many proven and less expensive alternatives already exist for wireless IoT connectivity … [that] would avoid the cost and complexity associated with cellular communications.”
To that list could be added the 4G technologies that have emerged, very rapidly, specifically to cater of the needs of IoT: NB-IoT, LTE-M/CAT-M1.
Gartner asked respondents: “In your opinion, how will organisations like yours potentially use 5G capable networks?”
IoT topped the list, cited by 57 percent of respondents, followed by Video (50 percent) and fixed wireless access. The latter two both require high bandwidth, which along with low latency will be key differentiators of 5G from 4G.
The percentage favouring IoT as the main 5G use case could be higher, because the list of options respondents were given included several that are, arguably, IoT use cases: control/automation (33 percent), smart city (22 percent) non-critical sensors such as utility metering (17 percent) and autonomous vehicles (15 percent).
5G availability greatly overestimated
The survey also found other major misconceptions around 5G, again likely the result of the 5G hype that has gathered momentum very rapidly in recent years.
Gartner says that, by 2020, only three percent of network-based mobile operators will have launched commercial 5G networks, and less than 45 percent by 2025.
Astonishingly 37 percent of respondents expect 5G to be widely available by 2018, a further 23 percent by 2019 and another 29 percent by 2020.
Even more surprisingly telecoms industry respondents — who you except to know better – were even more optimistic: 47 percent expect widespread 5G availability by 2018, 27 percent by 2019 and 13 percent by 2020.
Misleading marketing hype is partly to blame. As anyone who has witnessed the transition from 3G to 4G will know, this is nothing new.
Gartner says: “Just as we saw with High-Speed Packet Access Evolution (HSPA+) (technically 3G) which was being labelled ‘4G’ by some CSPs. We now also have examples of 5G being leveraged in marketing before a standard is even available (for example, AT&T’s ‘5G Evolution’ or Softbank’s ‘5G Project’).”
Don’t expect an end to this any time soon. The mobile network operators are investing massively in 5G: their future survival depends on it. Regardless of use cases they don’t want to lose customers to other network operators and to this end many have rolled out LoRaWAN networks for IoT.
If the market already has a predisposition to believe 5G well suited to IoT every effort will be made by mobile network operators to exploit this by painting its precursors NB-IoT, CAT-M1/LTE-M as optimal for IoT use cases that might be better suited to other wireless technologies. Expect to hear phrases like ‘5G ready’ bandied about with increasing frequency.