Fifth Generation mobile network (5G) - A game changer for Push to Talk (PoC)?

Fifth Generation mobile network (5G) - A game changer for Push to Talk (PoC)?

Every ten years or so we have seen a new generation (1G/2G/3G/4G) of mobile networks being launched. Recently 5G mobile networks have started to roll out across the globe. 

Ever since GroupTalk launched our first Push to Talk (PTT) services back in 2006, we have discussed the issue “what about the reliability of the mobile network, can it be trusted for business critical Push to Talk communications?”. So far our customers have experienced that every new generation of mobile networks has resulted in better coverage, higher data speeds and improved reliability! 

We already see that 5G mobile networks will once again provide major improvements in terms of performance. 5G mobile networks will be launched in addition to the existing 4G networks, meaning that users will have two modern networks to rely on.  

Why do we need 5G?
The main driver for a new generation of mobile networks is the increasing number of online devices and the amount of data being transferred. During the period 2011 to 2021 the data traffic increased almost 300-fold and even more since!

Have you ever been to a crowded area, such as a large concert or major sports event, then you might have had issues using services such as live video streaming. With the build/roll out of 5G mobile networks, the number of users and bandwidth capacity should no longer be an issue. 5G is designed to support a huge number of users, not only smartphones, but also IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as sensors connected to the network.   

Internet speed
4G network supports a maximum connection speed of 1Gbps compared to 5G that supports 20Gbps, meaning that 5G is at least 20 times faster than its predecessor. (5G peak speeds have been reported at 100Gbps). 

Connected devices
4G networks are limited to about 4,000 devices within a square kilometer, compared to 5G networks that can support up to 1 million devices per square kilometer, 5G can accommodate at least  250 times more devices per square km! 

Power efficiency
5G mobile networks are said to be 90% more power efficient than 4G networks, an important aspect in our world with limited resources. 

It seems as if 5G will be able to deliver on the ever increasing bandwidth consumption among mobile users as well as supporting the activity of the rapidly growing number of IoT devices and not the least being environmentally friendly. 

How will 5G improve the GroupTalk services?
The most obvious answer is reduced latency. In simple words, network latency corresponds to the delay caused by the network, for a Push to Talk voice message to get from one device to another. The lower the latency the better user experience. 

Latency
Latency for 4G networks is in the range 20-30 milliseconds and for 5G it is below 10 milliseconds and in the best cases around 1 millisecond. 5G will cut network latency at least in half compared to 4G and in the best case by a factor of 10!

Network slicing
Network slicing is a key feature of 5G, that enables multiple independent networks to exist on the same physical network, using different “slices” of the same spectrum band. This allows organizations to accommodate different application requirements for security, reliability, and performance on the same network. 

In simple words, network slicing allows organizations to have “their own network” with a guaranteed capacity and quality of service on a public mobile network, sharing the underlying mobile network infrastructure. This is huge, compared to the past when there was no guaranteed quality of service (“best effort” services) and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) had to be created for privacy. Network slicing caters very well to applications such as nationwide fleet management, security companies, service organizations, etc. providing a reliable and controlled service wherever the devices are located. 

Network slicing can obviously provide organizations an improved quality of service for Push to Talk services. 

Private 5G networks
Private 5G networks can be established for organizations who have very high requirements to  security, performance and reliability, or operates in rural areas without network coverage. such as manufacturing plants, airports and ports, hospitals, utility production, distribution sites and financial institutions etc. 

Private 5G networks have a dedicated on-site network infrastructure with full network isolation, bringing greater control, reliability, deterministic quality, as it is not shared with other customers.  A private network will work independently from public networks and be fully operational even if the public network should fail.

Mobile Edge Computing
When smart devices are online with the ability to communicate with each other, a fast 5G network is not enough. Units like autonomous vehicles are dependent on real-time communication with minimum latency.  A way to reduce latency, improve network operation and availability is Mobile Edge Computing. Which means that servers are placed  in the carrier network close to the base stations that communicate with the mobile users. User requests are being temporarily stored and handled by the edge computers, closer to the user. The combination of 5G network and Mobile Edge Computing is the foundation of Real Time computing with 5G.

Can Push to Talk over Cellular (PoC) finally replace two way radio systems?
At GroupTalk we believe that 5G is a huge leap forward and 5G will allow PoC to compete with traditional digital two way radio systems such as Tetra and DMR in terms of latency. 

Obviously PoC has a huge advantage over traditional digital radio when it comes to coverage. 

The strength of traditional two way radio systems is device to device communication when there is no network available. This is where the traditional radios shine. 5G devices still have very limited functionality and range when it comes to direct device to device communication.   

There is a reason why first responders and other users in critical communications are not ready to give up their two way radios with great direct mode range for something with less range, it could mean the difference between being alive or not at the end of the workday. 

At GroupTalk we believe that you should use the right tool for the task and that a combination of traditional digital two way radios with a modern PoC solution is the way to go for quite some time. 

With the quality and reliability of modern mobile networks, in particular now that 5G has been introduced, we have reached a point where business critical communications for Push to Talk and collaboration services can leverage the mobile network for the majority of businesses. 

References: 
What is 5G (Ericsson)
Mobile data traffic increased almost 300-fold 2011-2021 (Ericsson)
Network slicing in 5G (TechTarget)
5G is 90 percent more energy efficient than 4G (Nokia)
Mobile Edge Computing - a key technology towards 5G (ETSI)