How the shift from 4G to 5G impacts security and surveillance

Issue 2 2022 Surveillance

5G goes beyond just the ability to surf the internet at a faster pace. Consumers may still be awaiting mass availability of 5G-enabled devices, but the groundwork is already being laid for the infrastructure and for businesses to embrace its full potential.

Marcel Bruyns.

The shift from 4G and 4G LTE to 5G is far-reaching and although its growth is relevant to most sectors, we can expect to see real and impactful applications in the network security and surveillance sector, particularly when it comes to smart buildings and cities of the future. It is therefore important to know what 5G’s core benefits are and how it forms part of effective digital transformation strategies and smart living initiatives.

The rollout of 5G

5G networks are likely to cover one-third of the world’s population by 2025, accounting for as many as 1,2 billion connections. This global rollout is happening right now, with private and state entities investing exponential amounts into constructing new and upgrading existing infrastructure to deliver what some now consider an essential service.

5G is not just about delivering faster and better broadband service. The technology can expand into new areas, such as sensitive and high-priority communications and more notably, the realisation of large-scale Internet-of-things (IoT) networks and infrastructure.

With the infrastructure eventually in place, 5G network carriers and suppliers can offer affordable and comprehensive options to businesses and individuals based on their technical and digital requirements. Network security and surveillance sectors may not be the primary driving force behind the rollout, but they do stand to benefit from 5G and as such, should begin making the necessary investments into their own research, development and existing operations.

Overcoming the obstacles

Companies are moving forward with 5G, gaining a better understanding of how the technology best suits the application requirements of their respective industries. But it’s still essential to manage expectations. We may refer to big numbers – with the number of future 5G connections being in the billions – but a wide-scale rollout is still a long-term prospect and it’s at the mercy of several pertinent factors.

5G requires spectrum. Countries and regions are taking steps to consider and apply the appropriate policies that will govern the provision of spectrum to operators – a process that takes time. And there is the infrastructure itself. While some countries are moving swiftly to establish their own 5G networks, developing nations are still working to provide widespread connectivity. Their existing – and considerable – investments into 4G networks and technology may compromise or elongate timetables regarding an eventual 5G rollout.

Then we must consider usage parameters, which are already creating notable real-world impact. In January 2022, mobile networks in the US were forced to delay the activation of 5G services near airports after receiving concerns from federal aviation authorities. Questions were raised about how the surrounding 5G signals might interfere with essential in-flight safety equipment such as altimeters. It’s still early days for 5G and while this may be a circumstantial scenario, it does highlight the need for collaboration and planning between all concerned sectors to ensure a smooth and efficient rollout.

Smart cities, smart applications, and a smart future

We need to take an holistic view on the rollout of 5G. It plays a significant role in smart cities – futuristic urban areas that use the latest tech for the benefit of citizens and businesses. In this scenario, IoT is key, giving cities the ability to use a network of interlinked hardware to gather, process and effectively use data. And this is not just a trend. Technology spending on smart city initiatives is forecast to more than double between 2018 ($81 billion) and 2023 ($189,5 billion).

Within a smart city, you have mobility and monitoring solutions that work together to not only identify typical, everyday problems, but also to compile the necessary data to solve them. It is predicted that in 2023, outdoor surveillance cameras will have a 32% market share for 5G IoT solutions worldwide. This enables licence plate recognition, traffic monitoring and vehicle detection, all made possible by a series of edge-computing cameras and other surveillance equipment that feed back to a central hub. Faster transfer speeds allow for quick-time responses from officials and data is efficiently compiled and processed through the cloud.

Body-worn surveillance equipment on city law enforcement is another example. Using 5G-enabled wireless technology, cameras integrated with established video management systems can transmit live pictures to a central command centre, where officials can react in real-time. The efficacy of a solution such as this depends on the width and breadth of network coverage within the targeted area, but 5G guarantees the speed. And when combined with edge computing, the reaction time becomes even quicker.

There is long-term value to this thinking and approach, but it also depends on trusted partners and vendors that can deliver on these solutions. The security industry is ever evolving and the shift from 4G to 5G opens up more new opportunities to contribute to smart buildings, smart cities and critical infrastructure. Let’s make sure we make the most of those opportunities.


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