5G is coming: Faster – But What Else is Needed?
There has been a lot of talk and perhaps hype about 5G in the wireless industry, with arguably one of the largest announcements being between T-Mobile and Nokia of a $3.5B infrastructure investment. 5G delivers higher bandwidth and is better suited for IoT and mobile by supporting the anticipated explosion of devices with smarter allocation of spectrum, lower latency, higher bandwidth and improved power handling. But I’ll argue that 5G only addresses part of the solution gap, and omits a key element that has been historically neglected. With each new generation of wireless network and the promises surrounding it, the industry underplays that by their very nature, mobile and IoT devices are fundamentally semi-connected: sometimes the connection is unavailable, sometimes it’s adequate but sub-optimal, and other times it works great. Even worse, users cannot always predict which situation they will be in, for any given location and time of day. Improved coverage through mid-band LTE (as per T-Mobile US), and augmenting coverage with WiFi and CBRS, helps of course, but we’ve all experienced applications and services that simply didn’t work properly and provided a poor experience when the mobile device was disconnected from the network, or in a semi-connected state with high-latency. This situation – the fact that coverage is not universal, and not universally consistent across geographies and even time of day – is a fact of life and fundamentally will not change.
Both proponents of 5G and IoT talk a lot about computing moving to the edge, and the advantage for applications when doing so. Exceptional consumer experiences are only obtained from immediate, i.e. zero-latency, access to relevant data; in fact, many applications fundamentally require immediate access to data or else risk loss of functionality, decreased revenue, failure of business operations, or consumer churn. For many of today’s connected applications, data must be immediately accessible at the edge – the true edge, such as one’s phone, wearable, sensor, car, etc. While mobile networks can sometimes deliver low-latency connections, and that is a key promise from 5G, the network conditions can never be guaranteed for devices that fundamentally move in time and space. The “always connected”, low-latency, mobile network does not exist; rather, the application developer and service architect must overcome this obstacle to reduce risk around loss of revenue, customers, functionality, and correct operations.
The fundamental way to ensure zero-latency access to data is to put the data on the device, prior to use, and keep it synchronized and updated behind the scenes. In this way data is guaranteed to be accessible at all times, can be processed and updated independent of the real-time connectivity dynamics, and the consumer or business application operation can complete successfully, with changes updated automatically once connectivity is restored. Especially in a competitive market where consumers have multiple options, they will inevitably flock to the solutions that provide superior mobile experiences. Similarly, business applications – mobile applications, process flows, field services, or IoT – need data at the edge to ensure business continuity, revenue, efficiency, and correct operations.
Realm solves this problem through its world-renown mobile-client database and its synchronization companion (Realm Platform) for both businesses and consumer use-cases. Starting from its roots as a developer-friendly, mobile-optimized solution, Realm allows data to be cached or synchronized at the true edge for mobile, IoT, and connected devices, ensuring that the data is kept up-to-date and that conflicts are reliably resolved. The Realm Platform can be flexibly deployed in both public and private Clouds to support various use-cases, and can integrate with any external database or data source to effectively mobilize and synchronize any set of data.
5G promises to move the connected world forward for faster and better user experiences, more connected devices (including IoT) and higher bandwidth. But it does not overcome the reality of the mobile world: being disconnected. For optimal consumer experiences and true business success, applications and services must address connectivity changes and occasional disconnectivity by putting the data at the true edge. The success of mobile, IoT, and connected applications, whether on 5G or other, requires Realm and its seamless data synchronization capabilities for a true fulfillment of the promises that 5G and the future intends to provide.