Will 5G mean the end of all hard-wired connections? Hardly…

I feel old.  Not because my eyes are going and my body is creaking (I will leave those complaints to my business partner, Richard Hobbs).  I feel old because I was around in this space BEFORE 1G came out.  Now, we’re hearing more and more about the upcoming launch of 5G...

And....the speeds are incredible.  Downloading a full HD movie in your house, in less than 30 seconds, is mind-boggling, let alone at the mall while your wife spends all of your money (sorry, I digress).  Not only is it fast, it offers very low latency scores meaning that remote connections are now as close to "real-time" as you can get.

So, when 5G comes out, that must be the end of using one of one these, right?

I mean, who would still use these when comparable speeds are available over wireless?

The case for wired connections

Let's face it, most businesses still run over a wired Internet connection.  While I am writing this on an iPad (which uses a Wi-Fi) connection, my Internet service is provided by a hard-wired connection.

Here are a few reasons why this may not change, even with 5G:

1. Businesses stick with what is proven:   While you may upgrade immediately to the latest version of Windows or IOS, many businesses do not.  They find out what works and they stick with it for a long time.  I see the same for the use of wired connections.

2. Unlimited usage plans mean fixed costs:  Businesses like to be able to plan costs out well in advance.  Wired connections may be expensive, but they offer fixed costs for better planning.

3. Complex deployments:  Many companies have invested heavily in dedicated connections based on a wired architecture.  Unless they see a huge need to change, they will try to maximize the length of those investments.

As well, even in my house, I still use a hardwired connection for some key devices, such as my desk Mac. 

Why would this be?

1. Some devices are Wi-Fi hogs:  Ok, I am not a WiFi expert, but I do know that when I moved my Smart TV to a wired connection, I not only saw better/smoother performance for applications like Netflix on the TV, but I also saw other devices performing better on Wi-Fi...

2. Coverage – speeds: My office computer is about 15-20 feet away from my router.  There is only a single, thin door that stands between to block signal.  However, I lose up to 20-25% of my browsing speed using a wireless connection when compared to an Ethernet one.

3. Powerline extenders:  In my bedroom, signal strength for WiFi is an issue.  It is at the opposite side of my house and the signal has to go through multiple walls/floors.  Even using a WiFi extender, it was difficult to get consistent speeds to even watch NetFlix.  I solved this problem by using a Powerline-based extension solution that uses the electrical system in your home as an Ethernet replacement...works great.

The Bottom Line

So, am I advocating that you avoid cellular data and WiFi?  Hardly…but we may not wish to write off these technologies just because 5G is on its way.  One also has to factor in that 5G may require an extraordinary amount of signal enhancement for many locations, as it may not penetrate through walls as well as other technologies. That being said, many users may fall back to 4G for a long time.  So, don't throw out that old switch quite yet!

Embedded modems…the “pre-made meals of the IoT world”

pros and cons

About three and a half years ago, I finally got fed up of being overweight.  Having been relatively thin for most of my early 20s, the reality of sitting at a desk and travelling resulted in a lot of unwanted weight. Unlike many people, I fully admit that it was the combination of over-eating and lack of exercise that did it…not anything else.

So, over the course of 6 months, I managed to lose all of the weight.  I did it through a combination of exercise and eating healthy.  For me, eating healthy meant making it myself whenever possible.  Losing the weight was actually the easy part. Keeping it off has been much harder!

One of the ways that I keep it off is by not eating processed or “junk” food.  This is often easier said than done. I do travel, run a business and have 2 active kids in my life, so sometimes making a carefully planned, elaborate meal is not always practical.  I know I am not the only one, so once in a while, I turn to pre-made meals.  While not as healthy (or low cost) as making them yourself, many places offer pre-made meals that are reasonably healthy and relatively low in calories.

I look at it as a decent trade-off between making my own food and eating at a restaurant.  In many cases, it meets both needs.

Embedded modems…often meeting the needs.

In the world of IoT, there is usually two ways to connect your device to the Internet.  You can embed a cellular module inside or you can attach an external modem.  Both methods offer advantages and disadvantages.

Cellular modules are great when you are producing a fair number of devices, have some technical expertise in this space and have a little more time to get to market.  However, they are not great for customers who are in a bit of a hurry or those who may not have some of the technical expertise that they require.

Cellular modems are great when the number of devices you are connecting is not that high, if you don’t have access to the system board of the device (only to its ports) and if you need to get the solution running quickly.  However, for some, they are too large, too costly and they do not offer enough flexibility.

Embedded modems are not for everyone, but they do offer some of the features from both of the other options. They are relatively low cost, flexible in terms of technology, quicker to market (with less red-tape than a module) and they often fit in places where traditional modems do not.

The Bottom Line

The expression “one size fits all” is rarely true.  I mean, can you see Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Hart wearing the same outfit?  It is also quite true when it comes to the world of IoT.  What one company requires is often not what another one does, which is why we have multiple methods of connectivity.  Embedded modems will definitely help bridge this gap for some companies and they should be considered by customers looking to add wireless connectivity.  It may not be perfect for all situations, but like this grilled fish from my local market, it can be a better alternative than other options for many companies.