The Internet of Things is taking almost every industry — and every household — by storm. Yet, Gartner expects the number of connected devices to almost double between 2018 and 2020 — and the expected arrival of 5G in 2019 could have a lot to do with that exponential growth.

How 5G Will Accelerate IoT (And Why That Matters)

When it comes to how 5G will impact the IoT world, the obvious answer is linked directly to the speed of the connection between devices and the world wide web. But there’s more to the equation, according to Scott Stonham, Transformative Technologies, London-based IHS Markit, “5G promises to offer more than just speed increases, [it’s going to] improve the consistency of experience, and the number of things that can be connected to a network,” he said. “These improvements will enable the rapid growth of the number of connected ‘things,’ also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), plus the development of wirelessly connected mission-critical and delay-sensitive services and equipment, such as industrial robots, and airborne commerce or delivery by drone,” Stonham continued.

Tim Sherwood, VP of Mobile Strategy, Pune, India-based Tata Communications, also noted that 5G will give brands the chance to, “scale networks up to the promised speeds of 5G as well as scale down to support narrowband [connections]. This is a key requirement for enterprises looking to efficiently deploy a wide variety of enterprise mobile and IoT use cases at scale across multiple operators and multiple locations around the world.” He also described how vital 5G will be to enterprises planning to survive the, “explosion of more advanced IoT devices and use cases that will consume greater bandwidth.”

Related Article: 6 Ways 5G Will Empower the Digital Workplace

AI, Machine Learning and Connected Devices

“[5G becomes more of a necessity when] we look towards autonomous vehicles, remote surveillance and increasing interactions across different IoT endpoints leveraging artificial intelligence and machine-learning.  All of these higher bandwidth use cases require a faster, more responsive “network on demand” in order to realize their full potential,” Sherwood explained.

Jason Elliott, 5G Market Development Manager at Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, also told CMSWire that 5G will help brands cope with the increasing pressure to diversify and expand beyond their traditional business models. “Many industries are facing fundamental disruptions that demand they transform their underlying business model. From media and entertainment to manufacturing and transportation, companies must find new ways of working and increase their performance. Many face intense and growing competitive pressure in dynamic markets where the lifecycle of new products and service introductions is constantly shrinking. 5G has the potential to help,” Elliott said.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 7 Big Problems with the Internet of Things

Is 5G Financially Viable for Communication Service Providers?

Okay, so 5G connectivity can seriously speed up the growth of the already rapidly growing IoT industry — but is it a financially viable operation? As of today, the answer is a clear no. According to  Manish Vyas, President, Communications Business, at London-based Tech Mahindra, communications service providers (CSPs) are having to toil in order to make 5G profitable. “CSPs are going to need to invest billions of dollars to enable 5G,” Vyas revealed. “Consumers will continue to demand speed and stability, while CSPs are expected to struggle with declining revenue per byte, combined with the necessity to make large investments in networks, while facing high amounts of debt. Business models will need to evolve so that the revenues accrued are in line with the huge investments that need to be made,” he explained.

The solution, according to Vyas, is for CSPs to shift their business models and embrace IoT-ready software solutions on multiple fronts. “CSPs will have to move away much faster from their legacy infrastructure and invest in software to enable virtualized networks to reduce both capital expenditures and operating expenses.

He went on to say that governments and regulatory bodies should monitor advances while making it easier for telecommunications companies to invest in technology upgrades. Furthermore, regulatory bodies and CSPs alike will have to explore new revenue models such as data monetization and content management, according to Vyas.

Sherwood had a more optimistic outlook on the situation, pointing out that — although there will be obstacles — we can look back at the mistakes and roadblocks made with 4G back in 2010. “While the roll out of 4G was hit with barriers and delays, lessons have been learned that should result in a smoother transition for 5G technology,” Sherwood claimed.