The Implications of Fusing 5G and Blockchain

Analysts have been anticipating the implications of the Internet of Things (IoT) for several years. However, there have been two main impediments to its success: capacity and security.

But now, the introduction of a new technology could change that. This year, major carriers like AT&T and Verizon will be introducing 5G, the latest generation of cellular mobile communications. The 5G platform brings a high data rate, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reduction, higher system capacity and massive device connectivity, according to analysts.

The combination of 5G and blockchain technology has the potential to unleash a surge of economic value. In order to understand this connection between 5G and blockchain, one must think of the relationship as multifold. The power of 5G coverage through its reduced latency, high speeds and capacity allows for IoT devices to become widely used. Simultaneously, these devices can leverage the security, decentralization, immutability and consensus arbitration of blockchains as foundational layers.

That means smart cities, driverless vehicles, smart homes and other sensor-driven enhancements will finally have a technology that can handle their needs.

Internet of Things Application

As foundational layers, blockchains can provide consensus and security while the majority of IoT transactions and contracts occur on second-layer networks, with the opportunity to settle payment channels and transaction disputes on-chain. The network capacity of IoT, however, will be enabled by the power of 5G coverage.

Furthermore, 5G will directly assist blockchains by increasing node participation and decentralization, as well as allowing for shorter block times, driving forward on-chain scalability — all of which, in turn, further supports the IoT economy.

Here is a first look at how 5G is rolling out and when real usage might be seen.

The rollout of 5G

Network providers have started rolling out 5G within select United States cities, while global coverage is expected to come online in 2020.

Verizon will start delivering its coverage in Chicago and Minneapolis from April 11, with services moving to 30 cities throughout the remainder of 2019.

On the vendor side, Samsung is expected to release its 5G-compatible Galaxy S10 model next month. Other companies, such as Huawei and LG, have announced models of their own that are expected soon.

In terms of modems, we are still waiting to see one that supports both 5G and LTE. Qualcomm is expected to release such a product, the X55, in either Q3 or Q4 of this year.

Apple consumers will have to hold off until 2020 before seeing a 5G-compatible iPhone, though, with the company apparently still evaluating market conditions.

Waking up the Internet of Things

The benefits of 5G are its high speeds, capacity, low latency and ability to connect with vast numbers of devices. Latency refers to the time between when a signal is sent and received. In blockchain terms, latency is the time between a transaction being broadcast and it being received by nodes. However, for IoT, whether it be applied to smart homes or autonomous vehicles, achieving low latency is critical if devices are going to communicate with each other without experiencing long lag times.

This reduction could unlock another concept, the Internet of Skills (IoS). This is the process by which specialists conduct their work remotely through virtual reality headsets. For instance, a dentist would be able to perform procedures remotely. If latency cannot be minimized, then the specialist will not be responsive enough, endangering the patient and undermining the entire function.

It is these new applications that are driving the projections for the economic impact of 5G. A study from Qualcomm showed that 5G could lead to $12.3 trillion in additional global GDP by 2035.

Importantly, 5G — with speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second — is an improvement to current home broadband services, as well as cellular networks. To put this in perspective, the average global, nonmobile internet speed stands at just 7.2 megabits per second. As such, 5G could well become the de facto internet network worldwide.

The effects of 5G on IoT and related concepts are going to be further augmented by multi-access edge computing. This is a form of networking whereby service is disseminated from centralized nodes to peripheral ones, resulting in an even greater increase to speeds while also reducing latency.

IoT will rely on this capacity and ability for