Introducing 5G: Why we need a new generation of mobile network

In our last session, the three guest speakers gave us plenty of insights on the Internet of Things and how is transforming the way we interact with the digital world. May it be in the domain of smart TV, speech recognition or smart health tracking: The way we interact with our devices is drastically changing. In this context, most of current and future IoT devices have one commonality: To perform on their respective use cases that need a permanent, high performing internet connection.

This blog post analyses the influence the data traffic generated by IoT devices has on our mobile networks and describes why a new generation of the wireless network is going to be required in the short-term. It ends with an open-ended introduction into the first implementation step of 5G and initiates a discussion about 5G’s technological feasibility.

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Image source: Happiest Minds

How IoT is driving data rates and network requirements

Due to emerging use cases and further market penetration, the number of registered IoT devices will significantly increase during the next years. As Gartner points out the global number of devices will almost double from 11bn to 20bn installed IoT devices in the next two years (Statista, 2018a). Taking into account the increasing complexity of new IoT devices and the increasing number of devices itself, it is not surprising that the data consumption caused by IoT devices is about to boom as well. As Cisco expects, the amount of data generated by IoT devices will grow to 600 ZB per year (McKendrick, 2016). As the author McKendrick points out, the amount of data traffic due to IoT devices is, thus, 39 times higher than the projected Data Center Traffic in 2020. Therefore, the first takeaway in this context is that IoT devices will create a tremendously high amount of additional network traffic. However, it is relevant in this context, to analyze whether this traffic is likely to be mobile wireless traffic which is especially relevant in the context of 5G. The first intuitive answer to this is yes: Just image an autonomous car connected to the cloud, a 24 h health tracker and your mobile phone, many of those devices can only function with having a stable mobile connection. The quantitative proof is delivered by Cisco: They estimate that the global mobile data traffic will double until 2020 (Statista, 2018b).  Thus, the first requirement imposed on the networks is to cope with the increasing data traffic. However, this is not the only challenge faced in the context of new IoT applications. According to the New Generation Mobile Network (2015) especially requirement in latency, mobility and experienced data rate will increase significantly. To understand the importance of those requirements just imagine a self-driving car operating in a cloud-based controller model. If the car is supposed to react the wireless network must transmit the reaction in milliseconds to have a chance to react properly. Especially for high performing operations, such as online gaming and autonomous driving, latency will thus increasingly gain in importance.


Can the current 4G mobile network cope with the increasing demands?

Considering the increasing amount of data traffic and the existing 4G infrastructure, all experts come to the conclusion that the 4G infrastructure will be facing its limits in the soon future. As a study by the management consulting McKinsey (2018) reveals in this context, the US 4G network will run out of capacity in at least 50% of its sites in 2020. Moreover, latency needs to be reduced by implementing new technologies such as edge computing (Kinney, 2017). Thus we require a new generation of networking performing better with larger amounts of data, as well as with low latency requirements. Is 5G the solution?

5G as the answer?

The notion 5G describes the next generation of mobile networks which will already be launched next year (Jones, 2018).  Many experts believe that this generation of the network will solve many of the problems we have today. The first step of this 5G integration will be the launch of enhanced mobile broadband. To do so certain technological challenges need to be addressed. 5 G technology is based on millimeter waves, even though the technology for the antennas itself is comparatively cheap, the reach of those waves is low (<400m). One possibility in this context would be Smart Cells repeating this signal (Nordrum et al., 2017). However, this and other technologically required innovations would require a range of infrastructure investments. In a second step, the network is supposed virtualized to enable slicing an building a wireless service platform (Nordrum et al., 2017). According to the providers, this is going to be the case in 2022.

However, is it even possible to build a functioning coverage with Enhanced Mobile Broadband before moving to the second implementation stage? I am looking forward to your thoughts.



Alliance, N. G. M. N. (2015). 5G white paper. Next generation mobile networks, white paper, 1-125.

Jones, R. (2018). Top five 5G phones to expect in 2019: Galaxy S10, OnePlus 7, Huawei P30 and more; accessed from: ; 02.08.2018

Kinney, S. (2017). AT&T: Edge computing is key to 5G use cases; accessed from: ; 02.08.2018

McKendrick, J. (2016). With Internet Of Things And Big Data, 92% Of Everything We Do Will Be In The Cloud; accessed from:; 01.08.2018

McKinsey (2018). The road to 5G: The inevitable growth of infrastructure cost; accessed from: ; 02.08.2018

Nordrum, A.; Clark, K & IIEE Spectrum (2017). Everything You Need to Know About 5G; accessed from:; 02.08.2018

Statista (2018a). Number of IoT devices in use worldwide from 2009 to 2020 (in billion units); accessed from:; 01.08.2018

Statista (2018b). Global mobile data traffic from 2016 to 2021 (in exabytes per month); accessed from: ; 02.08.2018