Discussions about the promise of 5G networks are getting more excited. 5G is set to open new doors for enterprises to deploy IoT-enabled use cases that require high bandwidth, ultra-low latency, and differentiated service characteristics. Even so, 5G is not the only network technology for IoT solutions. Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), LoRaWAN, Sigfox, and LTE-Advanced are other IoT network infrastructure technologies that deserve attention.

3GPP officially completed the first real 5G specification in late December 2017; other 5G standards are still in development. Nonetheless, most tier 1 telcos are already running trials based on “almost 5G” technologies like NB-IoT. Broad commercial deployment of “real 5G” in metropolitan areas is unlikely to start for at least another year, although Swisscom, T-Mobile US, and Verizon are promising to start rolling out 5G networks in 2018 and 2019.

Unlike earlier generations of cellular network infrastructure (2G, 3G, and 4G), 5G and the other IoT network infrastructure technologies will not “just” be technology rollouts. To support their IoT solutions most effectively, businesses need to come from a use case perspective — not a technology perspective. They must first define their IoT use case: cost reduction, differentiation, or additional revenue. This allows them to determine specific requirements regarding bandwidth, battery life, latency, security, and data transmission distance. Only then can they make the decision as to which network technology is most suited for a specific use case. Business managers, not network managers, are increasingly in the driver’s seat.

5G will not happen in one big bang, but in an evolutionary fashion — and it will coexist with the other network technologies. 5G momentum is building. The time has come for technology and business leaders to investigate the potential of 5G and the other IoT network infrastructure technologies in more detail. Our new report gives technology and business leaders insights into which IoT network infrastructure technology is most suited for what kind of use case.