The first wave of 5G technology rolled out late last year when AT&T quietly launched 5G hotspots in nineteen cities and Verizon began selling the Moto Z3 — the world’s first 5G-enabled phone. While it could be years until 5G networks are as ubiquitous as 4G LTE, many companies are actively developing technologies to take advantage of the higher speed and lower latency of 5G networks.
Vehicle manufacturers and government transportation departments plan on leveraging 5G networks to enhance communication between vehicles, pedestrians and infrastructure. Vehicle manufacturers want to usher in a new era of autonomous vehicles, while transportation departments want to improve safety and reduce congestion.
Let’s take a look at why 5G networks are a big deal, how they will transform transportation and how cities can start investing in 5G infrastructure.
5G networks promise to not only increase speeds compared to 4G LTE, but also provide lower cost connectivity to support the IoT revolution. Click To Tweet
Why 5G Networks Are a Big Deal
5G networks, or fifth generation networks, provide a much higher capacity and lower latency than 4G networks. While they use encoding similar to 4G LTE networks, their air interface enables each channel to max out at 100MHz, which is much higher than the current 20MHz limit. Bonded channels could enable 5G networks to run as high as 800MHz. 5G networks can also support many more devices than existing 4G LTE networks.
These technical improvements convey several benefits:
Many municipal area networks are a hodgepodge of different wireless networking protocols, such as Wi-Fi or RF-Mesh, and don’t communicate with each other. Since 5G networks are faster and have lower latency, cities can use a single communication network for all of their needs rather than using a patchwork of solutions.
There are many reliability issues with existing technologies, such as Wi-Fi or 4G LTE, including dead zones and capacity limits. With many frequency options, 5G networks could provide broader and more reliable coverage with lower latency than 4G LTE networks, making them ideal for supporting a great number and variety of applications.
5G networks will work with smaller, less expensive low-power devices to connect various small objects and sensors to the internet. This could make internet connectivity more ubiquitous than previously possible with 4G LTE networks, as well as pave the way for IoT applications.
Many people remember the jump from 3G to 4G LTE networks, which ushered in a new era of video calls, mobile games and other high-bandwidth activities. In addition to an equally significant jump in connectivity speed and quality, 5G networks will enable many more devices to connect to the internet, making it more than just a speed improvement. It could change the way that many different industries interact with the internet on a fundamental level.
How It Will Transform Transportation
5G networks will transform the transportation industry by enabling all road users and transportation infrastructure to communicate with everything else on the road. With ultra-low latency, vehicles will be able to instantaneously exchange small packets of data. The low cost of 5G equipment could also enable more applications. In fact, the 5G Automotive Association was formed to bring together experts in the field and find the best ways to make smart transportation a reality.
5G capabilities could provide many benefits to transportation:
Efficient Traffic Flow
Smart traffic controllers (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure) can detect when vehicles are approaching and time signals to be most efficient. Smart vehicles may also communicate with each other (Vehicle-to-Vehicle) and form convoys with minimal spacing between vehicles to maximize road space.
Driverless vehicles may become a reality when they can better communicate with vehicles that have drivers. In addition, driverless vehicles could communicate with traffic infrastructure to respond to road conditions, upcoming queues or other traffic issues that may arise.
Smart vehicles could communicate with cyclists, pedestrians and other road users to improve safety. For instance, Vehicle-to-Pedestrian technologies could enable cars to automatically stop at traffic crossings or alert pedestrian devices when a car is approaching at unsafe speeds.
Better Public Transportation
Smart traffic signals could be set to prioritize public transportation to reduce travel times, while new sensors could be deployed at bus stops to determine if anyone is waiting to be picked up.
These capabilities only scratch the surface of what might be possible when the technology is fully deployed across the country.
Implementing 5G in Your City
5G networks enable IoT capabilities at a much lower cost than conventional 4G networks. While 4G modules are expensive, power-consuming and high maintenance, given the requirement of complicated service plans, 5G modules will accept small, inexpensive and low-power devices with simple pay-per-use service plans. This means that cities will be able to implement smart infrastructure at a much lower cost, and more vehicles could come equipped with the technology.
Rather than replacing existing equipment, new technologies enable cities to augment their existing infrastructure with the new wireless capabilities. Applied Information’s Connected Traffic Cabinet System works with existing traffic hardware to add a new level of connectivity. These solutions are expected to support the rollout of 5G networks over time and could make smart city upgrades a lot more affordable.
Connected traffic infrastructure also requires a central system that supports it. For instance, AI’s Glance Smart City Supervisory System enables cities to manage all of their traffic and ITS assets under one, easy-to-use web application. Through the cloud-based platform, city officials and engineers can quickly view the status of any asset and diagnose problems.
The Bottom Line
5G networks may be a few years away from truly widespread adoption, but many vehicle manufacturers and cities are already preparing for its impact on transportation.
Applied Information specializes in adding new wireless capabilities to existing traffic infrastructure, as well as providing the software solutions required to harness the benefits of smart city technologies. From connected traffic controllers to school zone flashing beacons, we provide a wide range of solutions for any budget.