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5G is to IoT, as 4G is to smartphone

Posted: 08 Oct 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Dresden University of Technology  4G  5G  IoT  smartphone 

Contrary to popular knowledge, 5G is not the fifth generation past 4G, but an altogether different technology aimed to command, control and steer Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Neither is it an incremental step beyond LTE. This is according to the "5G Man" Frank Fitzek, professor and head of the chair of Communication Networks at Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden).

To prove his point Fitzek quotes both the highest, 500 billion, and the lowest, 50 billion, predictions of how many IoT devices will be networked together (connected) by 2020. He then notes that the majority of those will not be smartphones, because there are only seven billion people on the planet.

"Even if everybody had two smartphones, they would still be dwarfed by the number of 5G connected cars, connected trains, connected robots, connected grids, connected cities, connected health care, connected education and on and on," Fitzek said. "For those 14 billion people carrying two smartphones 4G is good enough. Sure 5G will make smartphones serve web pages faster, but 5G is not being created to that, 5G is being created to solve the problems especially latency that 4G does not address."

To control self-driving trains, automobiles, robots and all the other IoT devices people are dreaming up, the need to be connected in a much closer fashion than they are today. They need to really use different routes to send the same signal over (Fitzek said if you trace the routers your signal goes over to reach the same endpoint it will be the same everyday, despite the ability of TCI/IP to use different routes).

Frank Fitzek

The 5G Man, Frank Fitzek, professor at the Dresden University of Technology (Germany) shows a prototype wall-of-displays all with just 1ms latency over 5G, a prototype of a system that will go live during this season's National Football League play (but he's not allowed to reveal the stadium, yet). (Source: TU Dresden, used with permission)

"Autonomous cars will really be connected cars, because efficiency and safety will demand that they talk to one another with a fixed latency. Smart factories and smart robots will likewise need to the connected with a fixed latency. What I call the tactile Internet, where you can really feel objects in remote locations, everything will need a fixed latency and that latency time is always the same, 1ms, no matter what route the signal takes," Fitzek indicated.

To prove it to me he put a head mounted display on me, set it for 1ms latency and then tossed me a football (what we call a soccer ball) and I easily caught it. After we tossed it back and forth a few times, he went over and turns the latency up to 10ms and I couldn't even come close to catching it, even at 2ms and him standing right in front of me and dropping it between my hands, all I could catch was air.

He said he could give me more demonstrations with autonomous-robots, -cars, -factory machines and the result would be the same. The difference between 4G and 5G was that 1ms guaranteed latency that would enable connected IoT devices to be universally reliable, safe and secure.

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