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5G on brink of widespread adoption says GSMA report

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2020 represents a tipping point for 5G adoption, according to GSMA's annual analysis of the mobile economy. The report finds 5G is now available from 46 commercial operators in 24 markets worldwide, and 79 operators across a further 39 markets have announced plans to launch the service.

“Over the last 12 months we have seen the 5G ‘hype’ make way for reality: millions of consumers are already migrating to 5G, while enterprises are beginning to embrace 5G-enabled network slicing, edge computing, and low-latency services,” says Mats Granryd, Director of the GSMA.

5G, IoT, and cryptocurrency

For smartphones and other connected devices, 5G promises speeds of over 1Gbps that could eventually rise up to 20Gbps.

But speed is not the main draw: the real appeal is ultra-low latency—5G promises to reduce the time it takes for a device to send a command to a server and get a reply from 50 millisecond (ms) on 4G, to under 1ms.

High latency has been a key barrier to the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT), and the arrival of 5G is expected to supercharge the rollout of connected devices.

"Between 2019 and 2025, the number of global IoT connections will more than double to almost 25 billion, while global IoT revenue will more than triple to $1.1 trillion," says the report.

As these devices proliferate—from virtual reality headsets to flexible sensors on smart clothes—they are expected to form a network. Devices will be able to swap data between themselves, and potentially even pay each other microtransactions in a machine-to-machine (M2M) economy. This could include autonomous vehicles buying fuel, clothing stores deducting payments as you walk out the door, or smart traffic lights sending automated penalties to speeding drivers.

While the M2M economy has yet to get established, various different crypto projects are vying to facilitate payments. Engineers at Bitfury suggest the innovative payment structure of Bitcoin's Lightning Network is "well-suited to the infrastructure of the Internet of Things." And, other IoT-specific projects including IOTA's Tangle promise to provide a purpose-built payment network.

But, as is often the case, cybercriminals are already at the forefront of the emerging tech. As a recent report from McAfee revealed, hackers have begun to leverage IoT devices for crypto mining.



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Kieran Smith, Khareem Sudlow