5G Benefits and Value to Utilities
5G is the next big step in wireless communications. The technology will bring a number of new capabilities – higher bandwidth, lower latency, lower power requirements and a number of technical innovations (network slicing, beamforming and edge computing) that will allow for a number of new products and services to be implemented. By using higher frequency bands, commonly referred to as millimeter wave frequencies, 5G will push mobile speeds to upward of 10 Gbps, an increase that will make next-generation wireless competitive with fiber-optic wired networks. With all that new capacity, networks will easily be able to support of billions of connected sensors and smart devices – the Internet of Things (IoT).
5G will be crucial for connected and autonomous vehicles, micro / smart energy grids, connected infrastructure and smart-city services. There are many examples of how smart-city services will improve utility services, benefit society and enhance public safety – reduce traffic congestion, provide instant crime reporting, smart streetlights that dim when not needed, and sensors that monitor air quality, parking space availability and garbage collection. Rural America will also benefit with sensors for smart agriculture, telemedicine and beyond. It is impossible to predict all the services that will evolve as a result of 5G. The biggest challenge for 5G will be in the massive deployment that will be needed in a timely and cost-effective fashion. 5G networks will be made up of 100’s of thousands of small cells integrated into new and existing structures (towers, poles, buildings, street furniture, etc.). The magnitude of the problem is larger than ever before, but the issues are the same – needed is a physical location to attach the 5G small cell, fiber-optics to provide connectivity back into the core network and electrical power.
Many of these 5G small cells will be in locations or potentially on assets controlled or owned by the utilities, providing a potential source of income. Existing wireless operators will need the help of the utilities to expedite this deployment. For utilities that have access to fiber-optics they will have the ability to be a one-stop shop for wireless operators.
Public Safety is engaged in the deployment of 4G services, that will evolve to 5G. The FirstNet / AT&T organization that is supporting that deployment will have the same issues and needs as more traditional wireless operators. Internal communications requirements of the utilities may also be addressed in these deployments. As smart grids require more two-way bandwidth and sensors become more pervasive some of these applications may be best suited to run over commercial versus dedicated utility networks. New frequency bands are becoming available that will enable utilities to support their mission critical communications needs.
The net of this is that 5G provides a significant business opportunity for utilities as a revenue source, new service offering and improved internal operational efficiencies. The time is now to build 5G’s impact into your business.