Sweden’s deployment of 5G is currently limping along and we risk falling behind our neighbours. Component shortages and logistical problems are highlighted as two of the biggest sources of problems, and this is clearly a problem when we have to leave older mobile technologies behind.
Telia and Tele2’s ambition is for 90% of the population to have 5G by 2023, which is an ambitious target in this context. At the same time, work is underway to shut down 2G and 3G and many organisations need to switch to the new networks rapidly. In particular, those using 3G in rural areas today risk being left a little behind in 2023 when 3G networks are switched off.
As 5G has not yet reached the whole of Sweden, it may feel difficult to invest in a technology that is not fully deployed, but it need not be difficult. In simple terms, there are two paths to take.
- The vast majority of devices capable of 5G have fallback to 4G technology. If 5G is not available, the device will run 4G. This means that as operators roll out the network, devices will switch to 5G automatically.
- There are also standards, particularly for simpler alarm and monitoring systems, that are part of both 4G and 5G for IoT. We will address these further below. These networks are already in operation.
Best of both worlds networks
LTE-CAT M1 and NB-IoT should perhaps be called chameleon standards. These are already in use and deployed over large areas, plus at least LTE CAT-M1 is hyperspeed and also both are energy efficient. Both of these standards are so-called LPWA technology, which allows the signal to travel further with less energy. These are part of 4G but form the basis of the 5G future. In particular, LTE-M or LTE-CAT M1 has been widely supported by all Swedish operators. These technologies provide access to secure networks, operated by operators and communicating in licensed spectrum. Three major advantages.
NB-IoT and LTE-M are also standards that will co-exist with other 5G technologies, meeting the long-term 5G LPWA requirements of 3GPP. Both NB-IoT and LTE-M are therefore future-proof cards to invest in.
The three elements of 5G
At the beginning of the 5G specifications, the main focus was on expanded use of mobile broadband. But the design of 5G had more objectives. 5G requirements broadly cover three main use cases:
Improved network coverage, long operational lifetime and high number of connections per square kilometre.
High-performance, ultra-reliable industrial IoT with low latency for mission-critical applications.
Enhanced mobile broadband
Enhanced performance and a seamless user experience that can access multimedia content for human-connected communications
5G can be seen as a technology with three legs. One leg is the part of the technology that will provide higher data speeds. Another leg is related to machines and processes. Here you can see that the requirements are of a completely different nature. All the three main use cases are included in the 3GPP 5G specification where coexistence between 5G, LTE-M and NB-IoT is supported
In conclusion, 5G deployment is limping along. If your need right now is high speeds over 5G, then the networks will be largely in place by 2023. 5G hardware in the form of routers and modems will increase in availability in 2022. If the need is slow speeds, or status updates from various sensors, then there are plenty of devices on the market today that cover this need.