5G in IoT

What is 5G?

5G is the newest mobile network standard. Compared to 4G, it has three major benefits: Higher bandwidth, higher capacity, and reduced latency. It also has network slicing capabilities that allow a “slice” of the network to be dedicated to IoT devices. While reduced latency is a major advantage for some IoT environments that require an extremely reliable connection, there is also a sacrifice to this: 5G typically has a low range, which makes it less than ideal for remotely located IoT-devices.

History of mobile networks from 1G to 5G

5G is the next generation of mobile networks that is currently being rolled out in many major cities worldwide. It is set to pave the way for a new area in connectivity with a vast range of exciting new use cases.

It all began with the first generation of cellular technology, known as 1G, which was introduced in 1979 and operated on the 800MHz spectrum. 2G was introduced in 1991 and utilized the 1.9GHz spectrum. The most notable milestone of the 2G technology was its users’ ability to send text messages and share MMS (image and video files).

3G operated on the 2.1GHz spectrum and saw a major jump in bandwidth compared to 2G. Its MIMO (multiple inputs multiple outputs) technologies utilized additional antennas in our cellular devices, which allowed for increased capacity. Speeds of around 40Mbps were theoretically possible with 3G.

4G was first commercially rolled out in 2009 and operated on 700MHz and 5.2GHz frequencies. The biggest difference between 3G and 4G was once again the exponential increase in bandwidth. With up to 400Mbps, 4G offered up to ten times the theoretical speed of 3G.
5G is the newest generation of wireless cellular technology and operates on the 39GHz, 28GHz, 2.5GHz, and 600MHz spectrum. Theoretically, 5G could achieve speeds of up to 20Gbps. However, current realistic speeds are closer to 2Gbps in commercial networks – nevertheless, an admirable achievement.

5G vs. 4G

In contrast to 4G (LTE), 5G’s three most notable benefits are: Faster connection speeds, drastically reduced latency, and its ability to connect a huge number of devices simultaneously.
As with 4G, the antennas in 5G-capable devices need to receive and send data over the radio frequency from and to cell towers. As soon as a tower receives the signals, they are transmitted to the provider’s network and connect to the intended destination. 5G is extremely responsive and much faster at this, which reduces latency and increases the number of devices a tower can connect with simultaneously as each one of these data queries is completed much faster.

Latency of 5G

In many use cases of mobile networks, latency is a huge limiting factor affecting the reliability and response time of devices. From mobile gaming to autonomous vehicles and telematics, large latency creates many barriers that decrement QoS and QoE of all kinds of services.
In contrast to 4G, latency is reduced by a factor of 50 when connected through a 5G network. Once fully developed, 5G should be able to achieve a latency of around 1ms, which is minuscule compared to the latency of 4G or 3G (100-500ms).

Increased support capabilities

5G will be able to support around one million devices per square kilometer. This may sound like an unnecessary feature as intuitively 1 million devices seem like a ridiculously large number. However, once you factor in all the phones, smart watches, CCTV cameras, IoT devices, and devices used by “smart-cities,” such as every single streetlight, the existence of 1 million devices does not seem that unrealistic in dense urban environments.

Network slicing

Network slicing enables us to “slice” specific types of network traffic in order to accommodate for different use cases. Depending on the customer’s needs, the network traffic can be customized and thus be dedicated to specific use cases. Mobile traffic can be divided up: One slice may be used for video streaming and other non real-time data, while another may be used for first responders who are in great need of a reliable connection, and yet another slice may be used to accommodate IoT networks who need far coverage at a lower bandwidth

IoT in 5G vs. 4G


5G is (theoretically) 20 times faster than 4G. For the average private user, this is hugely beneficial for all types of data-intensive activities, such as streaming UHD videos. However, with regards to IoT, this is largely irrelevant as most IoT devices typically transmit small data packets. Even with more data-intensive IoT enabled devices, such as CCTV cameras or 3D scanners, the speeds provided by 4G are sufficient to support seamless data transmission.


5G networks utilize different frequency bands than 4G. The frequencies utilized by 5G networks are much higher (39GHz, 28GHz, 2.5GHz, and 600MHz). The higher the frequency, the shorter the signal’s wavelength.
5G’s shorter wavelength has several benefits:

  • Antennas can be shorter, and thus 5G devices & IoT-enabled devices compatible with 5G can be much smaller
  • Faster data transmission
  • Higher capacity: As mentioned previously, network congestion is far less likely to occur, with 5G being able to accommodate around 1 million devices per square kilometer.


There are, however, two downsides to 5G technology that strongly decrement its appeal to companies planning to deploy IoT infrastructures:

  • Shorter wavelengths do not have a good range. Thus 5G network providers will need many more cell towers to allow for decent coverage similar to current 4G coverage. Fortunately, these cells can be much smaller than 4G towers, making them much easier to install.
  • In order to enable its high capacity, 5G signals needed to be more directional, compared to 4G signals. This immensely sacrifices its range of coverage even further. A 4G tower is able to broadcast its signal in all directions.