From 1G to 6G: How 5G is fueling the IoT and what comes next

Mobile networks have been the catalyst for communication since the introduction of 2G – first between people, then between machines (M2M), and now between people and machines. Each new generation of mobile communications has had a lasting impact on the way we communicate and work. Thanks to 5G, we now have a standard that has helped IoT applications achieve a decisive breakthrough. How exactly did 5G come about? And what comes next?

5G & IoT

2G to 4G – telephony goes digital

Mobile communications, as we know it today, had their beginnings in the 1990s. Before that, there were only analog mobile communications networks (A, B, C, and D networks), which together formed the first generation of mobile communications. With the introduction of 2G in 1992, mobile data transmission was possible for the first time. This meant that telephony was no longer analog – now it was digital. The 2G standard also included various further developments such as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) or EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution). GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) still comes into play today when monthly data volumes are used up and consumption is throttled. This speed might be ok for applications like WhatsApp, but not for streaming services.

With the introduction of 3G, the world saw the dawn of the smartphone age. This generation of mobile communications was also continuously improved. Data rates here ranged between 384 Kbit/s and 42 Mbit/s. LTE (Long Term Evolution) also had its beginnings within the 3G standard. In its early days, around 2010, the LTE mobile communications standard managed around 50 Mbit/s. Today, the terms 4G and LTE are used almost synonymously. In fact, only LTE Advanced led to the desired gigabit data rates. In Germany, 4G is currently the standard, over which the bulk of telecommunications runs. 3G has actually been switched off by German network operators over recent years to relieve the strain on the infrastructure and gain more capacity for the 5G rollout.

5G – the gamechanger

In 2019, the introduction of 5G promised a revolution: With data rates of up to 20 Gbit/s, low latencies of just one millisecond, and the ability to network billions of devices simultaneously, 5G laid the foundation for digitization of industry. Unlike previous standards, 5G allows an application to respond much faster thanks to the low delay time between sending & receiving data, making IoT and IIoT applications possible on a large scale.

In addition, the bandwidth for smart, networked products and processes is diverse. Here are a few examples from Device Insight’s solution portfolio: Kärcher’s cleaning equipment fleets communicate location, condition and potential defects. Mobility provider MIND uses IoT services to monitor and control its fleet in real time. Finally, Costa Coffee has connected more than half of its coffee vending machines worldwide and, thanks to transparent machine and sales data, is not only able to reduce service costs, but also to align marketing and product development more closely with the customer.

Smart Coffee Cup
Using an IoT solution that enables intelligent Condition Monitoring & alerting for the Costa Coffee machines, technical malfunctions are quickly detected and fixed.

In short: 5G is the key to unlocking the full IoT & Cloud potential. Greater bandwidths and real-time communication make it possible to collect and evaluate machine data to derive recommendations for action, regardless of the number and complexity of the data points. Because the scalability is almost unlimited, the vision of Industry 4.0 can also be monetized in the long term.

6G – an outlook

5G will be followed by 6G – boasting even lower latencies and even higher data rates of up to 400 Gbit/s. 6G is to be supported by satellites in addition to radio stations on the ground, enabling networking of remote regions or at sea. 6G is also expected to make use cases such as cyber-physical systems, remote-controlled medical interventions, or highly complex digital-twin scenarios for entire cities (keyword: Smart City) become a reality.