Is There a Role for 5G in the Water Utility Industry?

Feb 20, 2020

In capturing data within the distribution edge of water utilities, through sensors or probes, some of the difficulties we hear from operations folk at these utilities include:

  • The data transmission issues that lead to lost data or incomplete data which impacts the ability to make critical decisions, sometimes in real-time
  • The power consumption issues that prevent the sensor devices from lasting for a decent amount of time in-situ
  • Data security as critical infrastructure and asset data is transmitted and stored in the cloud

As more connected devices get deployed on the water distribution system, by the utility itself or by the vendor partners (like ourselves) who work with water utilities, the expectation and the worry is that these issues will also increase.

5G technology enables the addition of new frequency bands and technologies to the communication spectrum. 5G, with deployments expected to accelerate since completion of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) New Radio (NR) in December 2019, will enable a few benefits:

  • Lower cost/byte of data transmitted in comparison to other approaches
  • Lower energy consumption
  • More bandwidth and flexibility
  • An exponential increase in data capacity than even 4G

These are all benefits that improve the value of all the connected devices on any system or enterprise platform. And immediately address some of the concerns that water utility executives have about the devices being installed on their systems. While the true value might take some time to materialize, when you combine the benefits derivable from 5G with artificial intelligence and edge computing on these connected devices, there is a need to start thinking about the possibilities that lie in the near future. Vendors are starting to lay and deploy the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the transition to 5G, for the water utility industry this should factor into our near and long-term plans for how the communication layer will tie into our project plans.