Few technologies have been as hyped as 5G. Even before the arrival of 4G, hype began to build around its successor, projecting the transformative change that 5G would bring to nearly every industry. In the realm of physical security, 5G is being hailed as a major shift for video surveillance and other security applications. However, our latest research suggests that 5G may not be the disruptive physical security technology that many suspect.
“Many analysts and industry observers claim that the proliferation of 5G will have a major impact on the video security market, arguing that in the coming years we will see the proliferation of large networks of wireless cameras streaming ultra high definition video in real time . Back in 2019, Gartner predicted that outdoor security cameras would become the largest market for 5G IoT solutions by 2022, with 11.2 million installed units. At Memoori we do not share this view. In fact, we see very little momentum or market interest for the deployment of 5G wireless surveillance at scale from 2022 onwards, either from camera manufacturers, integrators or end users.”
Live up to the hype
The increase in data transfer speeds provided by 5G is often exaggerated but is nonetheless significant, approximately 1,000 times faster than 4G based on realistic projections. Latency is also expected to improve, dropping from around 50-100 milliseconds with current 4G technology to a near-instantaneous 1-4 milliseconds with 5G. And 5G also has much larger capacity than previous generations of the technology, capable of accommodating thousands more IoT devices per square mile. As the 5G video surveillance hype suggests, all of this makes 5G much better than 4G for wireless connectivity, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better than wired solutions in most physical security scenarios.
“The fact remains that most areas that require high definition video surveillance are already well served by the basic wired communications infrastructure required to enable UHD video streaming from surveillance cameras,” explains our new research report. “The technology may be able to support wireless transmission of 4k video, but would it really be cost-effective? 5G bandwidth is also extremely expensive compared to wired forms of data transmission, and UHD video is extremely data hungry. When multiple cameras are installed, costs would quickly escalate and additional router spending would be required to support such deployments. As such, we are seeing end users willing or able to justify the additional cost of running their video security solutions wirelessly over 5G.”
Coaxial, optical, and twisted pair cables all offer a better business case for video surveillance connectivity than 5G when you consider cost at scale. Additionally, 5G signals consume significantly more power than 4G signals, which could have a serious impact on the device’s battery life and thermal management, as well as its overall lifespan. The IoT market has typically demanded ever-smaller and more power-efficient devices, and it seems highly unlikely that the market would reverse these trends to accommodate 5G, given that wired alternatives are practical in the vast majority of use cases.
“Wireless bandwidth is more than adequate for most surveillance applications today, and prices have come down significantly over the past decade. High-speed wired broadband has improved and is available at many video surveillance sites. These improvements should have boosted wireless growth, but didn’t really do it,” explains our Q4 2022 report. “Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) networks have become a cost-effective and practical alternative for many use cases where wireless may have been adopted, negating many of the benefits listed above. Although wireless offers new applications and a more robust solution, it has been slow to increase its market share in video surveillance.”
Short-term growth will be niche
The wireless video market for home security applications has grown rapidly in recent years, and much of the technology being developed for the home could be rebranded for the commercial building market or repurposed by commercial building managers, but that’s not really happening either.
Our research estimates that less than 5% of commercial/industrial cameras currently use wireless networks, and the comprehensive market study has not identified any significant wireless/security investments since 2015. These are not the characteristics of a Revolutionary Disruption market positioning promising 5G.
In the short to medium term, 5G-enabled video surveillance seems to be only successful in certain niches. For example, installing surveillance equipment in remote or dangerous locations, although these less profitable remote areas are likely to be the last places where effective 5G coverage is possible. Surveillance systems in smart cities, for example, can also reap significant benefits from 5G for traffic or crowd management, but most of these scenarios also offer wired or wearable alternatives. However, the temporary installation of 5G devices at construction sites holds more promise, and most longer-term visions of smart cities powered by smart drone networks also depend on 5G and 6G connectivity.
“We estimate that the rollout of 5G for video surveillance data transmission will take another 5 years to achieve the levels of coverage, reliability and cost reduction needed to make a real impact, but we definitely don’t see a legacy replacement Networks Coming Soon,” explains our in-depth report, which also examines wireless trends in access control, IA/PP and wired alternatives, alongside all the technological developments and market forces impacting this fast-growing industry.