The big bandwidth of 5G wireless is increasingly available in metropolitan centres around ANZ but what end users and suppliers are going to do with it in terms of delivering new monitoring and remote management services is less certain.

Telstra is now delivering 5G services to major metropolitan areas in Australia, and the service is being widely rolled out in NZ’s cities. The question for electronic security suppliers is which services can they deliver that allow users to get the most from 5G. That should be the focus because 5G is most of all about user mobile experience and security providers who wrap their heads around this will get the most traction.

From the point of view of suppliers, this means delivering polished interfaces that offer higher resolutions. With 100Mbps virtually everywhere there’s coverage, 5G eliminates the need to pitch customers toy cameras that combine low res, gagging compression vectors and gigantic angles of view that deliver less by offering ‘more’.

Getting user experience right is going to mean commitments to app development that take design and underlying functionality to a new and more intuitive level. Many apps are painful, fail to translate across the 2 primary platforms prevalent in ANZ, and don’t reflect the handling of the latest smart devices, with pinch or swipe movements causing random leaps in functionality that make operation tedious.
Also important for monitoring providers – and inhouse control rooms – will be leveraging 5G’s carrying capacity to support sprawling solutions that offer enhanced situational awareness without the need to hook into dedicated networks.

There’s no doubt whatever that Australia’s NBN, which has penetrated into 7.5 million businesses and homes, has been integral to the country’s ability to continue working during the COVID-19 epidemic. NBN is now sufficiently good to deliver reasonably reliable service outside of peak times when streaming video resolution can get a bit soft as contention presses on network-wide bit rates.

But NBN’s performance ceiling for cabled solutions makes it more likely that in the medium term 5G is going to pull expectations forward – users are not going to want to plod along on workstations delivering mundane download speeds when mobile devices, including tablets, have the capacity to move at virtually the speed of thought.

Exploitation of 5G’s potential is becoming more precipitous by the month. Telstra has just launched a suite of Enterprise-grade 5G solutions based on the Cradlepoint 5G wireless network edge solutions, a series of adaptors and routers that, according to Telstra, provide a real alternative to fixed connections for larger organisations, as well as a powerful layer of redundancy.

“5G’s faster speeds, lower latency and greater network capacity has the potential to unlock a host of innovations and market opportunities – really revolutionising how organisations operate,” Telstra enterprise group executive Michael Ebeid said recently.

“These past few months have proved that mobility and adaptability are vital for all businesses. The ability to quickly power up a fast, reliable and powerful connectivity solution, when and where you need it, can mean the difference of being up and running in hours, not weeks.”

Key here, is that access to Telstra 5G is now rolling out across 47 cities and regional towns, with more than 1500 5G sites now switched on and within reach of 10 million Australians. An interesting take on the impact 5G services can have in high demand applications came from a healthcare application in California recently, where despite the operational stresses of COVID-19, the capabilities of the 5G pushed it to the forefront of the hospital’s response.

The standalone, zero-trust system delivered by Verizon provides advanced wireless capabilities in a defined area in the hospital, and there’s a plan to relay 5G signal across the hospital’s campus by the end of the year to integrate 5G-enabled innovation into surgical care. This on-site capability applied to larger sites is the sort of thing you’d expect to see with 5G in healthcare and education.

What was most telling about the 5G upgrade from the point of view of security people was that the possibilities didn’t just overcome the loss of focus caused by COVID-19, they reframed the way challenges of the pandemic could be managed, suggesting similar benefits are likely to flow into security applications.

“Innovation is a work in progress by definition,” Dr. Thomas Osborne, director of VA’s National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation said of the application’s potential. “There’s stuff that we know we want to do and there’s stuff that we haven’t even thought of yet that’s going to be important.”

Osborne’s point is well made. The future of monitoring is going to mean something that may not yet be conceived – there’s going to be more symbiosis between monitoring providers and customers and there’s also going to be more functionality swilling around networks as well. Exactly what suppliers elect to do with 5G’s low latency, high bandwidth communications may remain opaque but it’s going to involve greater performance and more in the way of partnerships, too.

5G faces some challenges. NBN is ubiquitous and offers support for WBA Open Roaming, a kind of Wi-Fi that merges global networks of Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing users to log in once and stay connected as they move around. Of course, WBA Open Roaming requires cooperation and will only allow cable-supported Wi-Fi levels of performance. Another challenge is the existing 4G mobile service, which has proved robust, balanced and capable for most applications.

It’s these challengers with their relatively good bandwidth and reasonable cost profile that are going to push 5G forward, in my opinion. 5G will have to be much better than anything currently available to justify its expense and that imperative will drive security providers to the next level in order to keep up.