5G is the next generation of internet connectivity that promises much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections. Whilst the everyday consumer will be excited about the prospect this brings for faster and more stable smartphones, there are major applications within the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that look set to change the business world.

The technology

Within the next 3 years, 5G will be the standard for mobile content delivery. Those people using 4G will be aware that whilst it is a fast way of using the internet on your smartphone or tablet, in some cases like densely populated areas, it becomes glitchy as multiple uses try to connect. 5G will be significantly faster and in most cases, be stable and always available. Trials in busy areas of London have shown a vast improvement. Some say that 5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G.

The science bit

We won’t go into huge depth in this article but 5G is so much faster because it uses millimetre wave spectrum. This means more devices can be used in the same area. In fact, it could be as many as one million against the 4,000 with 4G. The reach and speed combined make for a very powerful new technology. 5G also uses a new digital technology called Massive MIMO, which stands for multiple input multiple output, that uses multiple targeted beams to spotlight and follow users around a cell site, improving coverage, speed and capacity.

4G has almost hit its limit when it comes to data but 5G is going to bring a whole new lease of life.


Accelerating IoT and AI

The biggest differentiator between 4G and 5G is the ability to connect at scale with IoT devices. When we talk about IoT, that means anything that connects to the internet. This could be your smartphone, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Fitbit, Netflix, Nest, Hive or Smart TV. Beyond that, many businesses are now using IoT based sensor technology in process efficiency. There is also the potentially to take driverless car technology to the level we all want it to accomplish.

Whilst consumers will notice things are a bit faster and more accessible, businesses will have several benefits that will help them accelerate their growth.

  3G 4G 5G
Deployment 2004-05 2006-10 2019-
Bandwidth 2 Mbps 200 Mbps >1 Gbps
Latency 100-500 milliseconds 20-30 milliseconds <10 milliseconds
Average Speed 144 Kbps 25 Mbps 200-400 Mbps


It is thought that the bandwidth, latency and average speed of 5G will be the catalyst for connecting humans and machines on an unprecedented level. Industry analysts HIS Markit have proposed that 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output in 2035. The International Data Corporation says that the amount of data created, captured and replicated across the world could grow from 33 ZB in 2018 to 175 ZB by 2025.

Whilst it doesn’t seem like much, cutting latency by 1 or 2 milliseconds has the potential for being a total gamechanger. Latency is defined as the delay we see before data is transferred to the end-user. One use case is at the Boliden Aitik mine in Sweden where 5G has already been enabled for automation. The improved speed and latency have reduced costs by 1% which is worth $2.5 million annually.

Factories with connected sensor technology will start to benefit from improved productivity. Machines will be able to report data in virtual real-time allowing for instant insight on critical activities. The integration of 5G technology may even mean fewer employees are required on-site as they can access systems remotely. There may be reduced labour costs and safer working environments.

In the transportation and logistics sector, we could start seeing big changes. Driverless cars are one example of innovation that fundamentally needs to have real-time data transfer. If a car can’t make an instant decision, there is the risk of accidents and casualties. It is part of the reason why we haven’t arrived at full autonomous vehicles yet, the power hasn’t been available to make them safe. Elon Musk’s dream of a driverless city in 2020 could still be on (albeit a bit ambitious).

Other use cases in transportation could be better AI monitoring services for traffic flow and safety or deliveries via unmanned vehicles, drones or robots.

In healthcare, 5G could accelerate the development of remote diagnosis and virtual GPs. Some have even suggested that remote surgery could be a possibility meaning that experts in another location can still assist when required. The introduction of wearable devices to monitor health will be more viable with real-time data feeds helping clinicians be more proactive with their patient needs.

Essentially, through better speeds, latency and bandwidth, there are cases in almost every industry where 5G can help accelerate growth. New technologies like virtual and augmented reality will also have the opportunity to flourish.


Big Data implications of 5G technology

We know that IoT will be a major part of 5G technology. The devices associated with the technology are continuously creating unstructured data which is notoriously hard to analyse and store. For example, as we continue to see a growth in voice marketing, the amount of data held will quickly accelerate. This is an amazing chance for brands to gather all kinds of information on customer behaviour that can help to create optimised content but there are implications on infrastructure.

If you consider that when 4G launched, it caused mobile data requirements to grow 20-fold, with the necessary IoT support under 5G, it is believed the data needs of broadband providers will grow by over 300% in 2021. Businesses will be gathering data at a rate of knots meaning they will likely need to scale up their storage to account for demand. The additional information might also complicate existing data models and algorithms used within analytics.

The biggest challenge to 5G could be around data privacy. As we can connect to more devices, some of which have never been connected before, the risk to data privacy grows exponentially. Whilst driverless or connected cars are an amazing innovation, at the same time, it is also providing data on our exact location at any time. Our smartphones will become a sort of super-connected hub of data. If somebody manages to hack a device maliciously, with so many connections it could be incredibly damaging.

The good news is that 5G is actually a more secure standard than 4G. Instead of data all being in one place, it is stored in chunks.

5G networks comprise three main elements. The radio network transmits data from your phone to the mast, the transport network sends this from the mast to the core network, and the core network processes the data and sends it back again. The core is the most sensitive part of the network as it handles all the main customer data.

As well as this, all data sent over a 5G network is encrypted. With 40% of people saying that network trustworthiness is highly important when selecting a new provider this probably isn’t much of a surprise.


The applications of 5G could spark accelerated technological growth in several industries and there is a lot of hype about its potential. However, we need to remember that a lot of the applications are either in their infancy or yet to be delivered. For example, driverless vehicles might be getting closer in technology terms but have a lot of regulatory and ethical issues to resolve before a full deployment.

5G is also in the very early stages of use. Industries still need to develop firm use cases to justify the investment. For example, will adding more sensors, scaling up data repositories and having ultra-low latency bring a great enough return on investment to make it worthwhile?

Over the next few years, 5G will undoubtedly unlock a number of new developments but it is the responsibility of businesses to ensure this is carried out in a very strategic, secure and ethical way.