With the COVID-19 outbreak and various levels of lockdown, I’ve had a lot of time to read books and watch television. One of the technologies being heavily advertised is the 5G wireless technology, which is supposed to revolutionize cellular and internet connectivity.

But what is it going to do for our industry?

The fifth generation of cellular service, 5G, could provide much larger data bandwidth and lower latency (the time it takes for signals to travel over the network). Where these services potentially fit into our industry is the use of 5G to transmit video surveillance, specifically outdoor surveillance. Respected research company Gartner predicts that video will take the largest share of the 5G Internet of Things market over the next three years.

In simple terms, the goal of 5G service providers is to enable 1 gigabit or better data transfer rates from individual wireless devices. In contrast, most cabled internet services currently available deliver roughly 100 Mbps of data.

Because the surveillance cameras currently available usually require 5-10 Mbps of bandwidth, video transmission over 5G should work well. However, as is typical with the rollout of new technologies, the devils are in the details.

The major wireless vendors have been actively bidding in U.S. government auctions for available RF spectrum to use for their 5G systems. It’s important to note that the different carriers may obtain low, mid-band, or high frequency based on what RF spectrum sections are being auctioned in which geographic areas. So, the coverage and performance from vendor A may not be the same as from vendor B in a given area.

Another factor to consider is that while service providers are advertising their “5G” services, the actual performance of their networks may only support 4G level bandwidth until their networks are completed. Because of the different spectrum sections used by the vendors, video connectivity to their 5G networks may well be a matter of manufacturers building video cameras that will work on specific wireless vendor networks, and security dealers will need to exercise caution. Smart dealers will perform function tests from the customers’ location to verify that the 5G service is reliable at the particular site.

It may take a few years for 5G cameras to become commonplace for our industry, but they will provide an exciting new market for our industry.