4G vs. 5G: How to know when to make the switch

Another in our series from speakers at Sensors Converge, coming June 20-22 to Santa Clara, California.

While most people equate connectivity to mainstream technology, mission-critical jobs like those in the public sector, utilities, and the federal government depend on reliable connectivity for optimal performance in time-sensitive and extreme conditions. Workers in these industries must communicate with team members for daily tasks like servicing energy grids and responding to 911 calls, and especially during disasters like power outages and forest fires.

Ubiquitous connectivity is foundational to secure communications and accurate and timely decision making. This means that every device and application comes with different connectivity needs and requirements, making the discussion around 4G versus 5G even more complicated.

The public sector, utilities, and federal government also have limited IT teams, so they must stay on top of connectivity infrastructure changes to maximize current deployments and resources. Technology upgrades are nothing new. IT leaders went through a similar process when moving from 3G to 4G. But these IT teams face a unique challenge, determining whether to maintain their infrastructure or upgrade to 5G.  Either way, the services they rely on daily must not suffer downtime.

Analyze current deployments and determine future needs

The question for mission-critical industries is not “When do I want to move to 5G?” But “Do my current applications require 5G today? What about in the next five years?” These industries use rugged solutions that offer reliable 4G connectivity for extreme environments. However, some devices now offer 5G capabilities. With continued excitement around 5G use cases like AR/VR, enhanced data sharing, and AI, IT leaders are eager to take the next step and support their workforce.

For example, first responders use 4G for dispatching teams, sending Amber Alerts, and GPS mapping. However, with 5G, these critical teams can share real-time HD video, use AR to access critical information during incidents, and decrease 911 response times even further.

While these benefits seem like a no-brainer, police, EMS, and fire IT teams must weigh the time and resources required to move to the next generation against the new opportunities. An upgrade won’t help these essential teams if the devices they depend on aren’t 5G-compatible or if standards will change as soon as IT teams finish deploying new networks. With little room for error, they need to make the right decision the first time.

Collaborate across industry silos and educate key personnel 

Every industry, solution provider, vendor, and regulatory body has a different strategy and timeline for connectivity upgrades. Improved communication between these stakeholders will result in better-educated IT teams. With a complete picture of the connectivity landscape, IT teams can make informed decisions on when to upgrade their infrastructure for organizational success. For mission-critical industries, this means the workers supporting our most important needs will have the best tools on the best network to get the job done.

So, when should IT teams make the switch to 5G? The tipping point is when 5G-compatible solutions, consistent regulatory standards, and required resources and expenses align with an IT team’s future goals. When these three things intersect, IT leaders can confidently move into the next generation of connectivity.

Michael Pozapalidis serves as a senior executive of business development at Panasonic Connect. In this role, he drives wireless strategy and technology adoption for Panasonic TOUGHBOOK products, working with major U.S. wireless carriers and wireless module manufacturers. 

To learn more, attend Michael’s panel session, “Successfully Navigating the IoT Ecosystem” at Sensors Converge on June 22 at 9:25 a.m. PT. Register for the event here.