IoT: Healthcare and smart cities lead 5G adoption

Healthcare technology concept. 5G
Sheila Zabeu -

February 02, 2023

The healthcare and smart city services sectors will drive the adoption of 5G connections for Internet of Things (IoT) which, according to a new study by Juniper Research, are expected to rise from 17 million in 2023 to 116 million by 2026 globally.

The research examined various industries and predicts that the healthcare and smart city segments will account for more than 60% of IoT devices with 5G connectivity by 2026. Ultra-low latency and higher bandwidth are the main factors that will contribute to the spread of new 5G connections in the IoT landscape.

In the case of the healthcare sector, investments in 5G services will target the need to modernize inefficient services most exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The most sought after advances will be in telemedicine initiatives, ambulances, connected emergency services and real-time remote monitoring.

“5G will enable more efficient and dynamic healthcare delivery that is not feasible with 4G or Wi-Fi. However, healthcare providers are likely to implement 5G initially in areas that offer high return on investment, most notably connected emergency services,” highlights Olivia Williams, co-author of the research.

Smart cities, meanwhile, are expected to see 5G connections grow significantly due to the attractiveness brought about by the cost-effective deployment and the ability to carry high volumes of data. The study predicts that there will be more than 60 million 5G connections in smart cities worldwide by 2026. The report highlights that transport network monitoring will be the key services taking advantage of 5G’s high-bandwidth connectivity.

5G’s ability to deliver ultra-reliable, highly available, low-latency connectivity will open up so many new possibilities for innovative service delivery as to generate global demand in a market valued at $19.3 billion by 2023.

5G opens up new possibilities

Initially launched for mobile phone communication, the 5G protocol currently has 5G modem models aimed especially at IoT applications. In mid-2022, the 3GPP group published the Release 17 specification that is expected to further extend IoT use cases as well as mobile broadband extension. In 2024, the new Release 18 is expected to bring functions for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

According to Takeshi Niwa, marketing analyst at Techno Systems Research, the 5G standard places more emphasis on edge computing, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning-based networks, resource management between base stations, and cooperation between base stations and terminals, to promote low-latency communication and network resource efficiency in IoT use cases.

The 5G non-portable (non-handsets) device market grew 157% year-on-year in 2022 to 28.8 million units. The overall 5G device market growth will accelerate in the coming years with the expansion of 5G telematics and industrial IoT use cases, according to Niwa.

The executive highlights that in the case of industrial 5G, one of the main challenges is to gain economies of scale. Industrial applications of 5G, such as automation, remote control of robots, and real-time video streaming, especially a dedicated frequency band for 5G services, may have a higher cost.

However, the 5G Release 17 standard introduced, among other features, a new reduced capacity layer (RedCap) to address intermediate 5G use cases with an optimised design. This feature can efficiently support transfer rates of 150 Mbps and 50 Mbps for downlink and uplink, respectively, with optimisations such as narrower bandwidths, a single transmit antenna and a single receive antenna, (2 antennas being optional) and the ability to work with lower transmit power, among others.

With this approach, RedCap with reduced performance and cost should help accelerate the adoption of 5G in industrial environments and even in other scenarios. According to Niwa, the first 5G RedCap chipset will be commercialized in 2023, and mass production will begin in 2024. China is expected to come out ahead in 5G RedCap deployments, adopting the solution in industrial automation, smart electric meters and other use cases. In the rest of the world, 5G RedCap adoption will likely begin around 2027.