5G provides high bandwidth, low latency, reliability, broad coverage and a high level of security against cyber-attacks. It will have a huge impact in the relatively near future on smart transport systems and autonomous vehicles, and in healthcare – enabling virtual medicine and robotic surgery. However, several experts predict a slow uptake of 5G in buildings as LAN and Wi-Fi, particularly Wi-Fi 6 with its support of multi-protocols such as LoRa, BLE, Zigbee and Enocean, provide a cost-effective and reliable solution in buildings for the transmission of large amounts of data.
5G may often be insufficient in buildings as the signal struggles to penetrate glass and other building materials. To extend and boost cellular coverage in buildings, DAS (distributed antenna systems) or small cell technology can be installed, but DAS is only economically viable in very large buildings as the client needs to bring the base stations of all major network operators into the building.
Other issues include the initial investment cost and who will bear this, the carrier, building owner or tenant/occupier? Some providers are looking at pay-as-a-service models. Ownership of data is, as always, a factor that needs to be resolved.
The uptake of 5G is increasing. As of early 2021 there are 220 million 5G subscriptions. Deployment in many countries has been delayed by the COVID crisis, but the uptake of 5G will increase. GSMA predicts 1.8 billion 5G connections by 2026.