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Smart homes and 5G what’s the truth?

Smart homes and 5G what’s the truth?

Last week Richard Robinson our managing director had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Energy and Utility Alliance’s (EUA) conference at the Warwick University, a very well attended event that had attendees from all sectors within the utilities industry.

He was asked to speak about the smart home and 5G, the latter being a very hot topic of conversation right now. Whilst these two subjects are both strongly linked to the telecoms industry they can be separated. Here were some of the key takes:

Smart Home Technology:

The smart home is another hot topic of conversation right now and is certainly not a fad, with trends pointing to its continued growth. It is currently claimed that 25% of homes in the UK have some form of smart technology within them, be it lighting, thermostats, sound systems, security, fridges, washing machines or one of a plethora of others. With so many technologies on the market, the question now is: how do we define a smart home? Most would class an Alexa or Sonos sound system as the entry point into this market because you can ask it to do things, however today most phones already have this kind of capability. With smart phones being in well over 90% of UK homes, one could argue that almost every home could already be a part of the smart home marketplace.

This being said, and removing smart phones from the equation, a recent survey has confirmed the current uptake of around 25% is accurate, but more interestingly nearly 60% of people said that they wanted some form of smart home technology in their homes. Unfortunately, the clear consensus was that the gadgets and equipment are currently priced too high to achieve a higher take up, prices though are coming down as competition increases and technology moves on, so these figures should see an upward trend in the years to come.

The common query is what speed do I need for a smart home? The reality is simple, every time your fridge tells your smart phone it needs to buy some milk, the amount of data would be calculated in 100s of bytes, this is in comparison to 2,000,000,000 bytes required for a Netflix film, which makes the conclusion easy … speed is irrelevant, reliability is everything to which true point to point fiber has the advantage.

The single key common technology in almost all the smart home equipment is Wi-Fi, it is clear that for the Smart Home to work Wi-Fi is integral to the smooth operation of the technology. It is therefore vital that a reliable network is available to ensure that homes are ready for the future.

Wireless and 5G:

Wireless and fixed line technologies are inherently linked and complement each other very well. For example, weather can affect wireless telecoms, but fixed lines can be damaged by groundworks, neither is perfect and thus a mix is required.

The most common question in recent years is usually, why are companies still installing cables when 5G is widely reported to solve the UKs telecoms issues? It is true that 5G can deliver 1Gbps speeds, it is also true that the distribution equipment is a bit smaller than the 4G and 3G equipment. The issue though sits with the investment case of the businesses installing 5G. To achieve the headline speeds masts that for 4G could be kilometers apart need to be hundreds of meters apart, it will be a case of the digitally rich getting richer in the densely populated city centers, whilst more rural areas remain unconnectable due to the high cost and the lack of existing infrastructure.

So how do the two technologies combine? Simply, we need a wireless network to make connectivity increasingly seamless, but to reduce the costs of deploying a wireless networks we need an underlying fibre network to connect to, we cannot have one without the other.

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