5G takes IoT, and millions of devices, to new levels.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been delivering business value for years, enabling seamless inventory control, safer factories, automated processes, and more. Now, as IoT networks expand and take on new capabilities, more organizations are exploring 5G to connect potentially millions of IoT devices.

5 minute read

Share this article:


  • Businesses across industries can benefit from using IoT and 5G together to optimize operations and boost innovation.
  • 5G is ideal for IoT use cases that demand very low latency, such as factory automation, as well as for massive fleets of smaller devices and sensors where capacity and reliability are essential, like public utilities.
  • 5G can support more reliable, scalable, and secure IoT environments.

Virtually any device—a fitness watch, thermostat, manufacturing drone, or remote camera—can include a computer chip or tag that is used to track, measure, or give instructions over a wireless network. 5G, with its potential for high speed, increased capacity, and broad geographic coverage, is proving to be an ideal way to connect these myriad endpoints, whether across a campus or the country.

There’s another essential capability—low latency—that makes 5G a perfect fit for time-critical applications. 5G’s potential split-second latency expands IoT’s possibilities into rapidly evolving technologies such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, and machine control.

Businesses already using 5G see great potential in applying it to IoT. According to our report, “Adoption & Acceleration: What 5G Means For Your Business,” 61 percent of respondents—IT and network decision-makers at companies with some level of 5G adoption—envision using 5G for IoT enablement.

There are different types of IoT—mobile IoT, massive IoT, critical IoT, and broadband IoT—and 5G will work with all of them, according to GSMA, the industry group of mobile operators. With so much activity underway, market research firm Mordor Intelligence predicts the IoT market will grow to $1.39 trillion by 2026.


A man building a robotic arm


Robotic arms working on cars in a factory


A female engineer holding a tablet with a windmill in the background.


The bottom line: a combination of IoT and 5G can boost business productivity and spur product and service innovation. Here are five key capabilities you can gain by using these technologies together:

1. The ability to monitor many more devices.

A 5G network has the potential to support up to 1 million devices per square kilometer, enabling different sensor systems to use the same network reliably. A workplace can use sensors and other devices to improve safety and optimize operations, including automating labor-intensive activities, decreasing human error, and increasing efficiency.

“To have better visibility into equipment tracking, predictive maintenance, remote usage monitoring, and quality monitoring, we plan to use innovative IoT devices.”

5G "Adoption & Acceleration" Research Respondent.

IoT means “better visibility into equipment tracking, predictive maintenance, remote usage monitoring, and quality monitoring,” according to an IT decision-maker who participated in our 5G “Adoption & Acceleration” research.

Smart cities are one example of how IoT and 5G can be used in tandem to support device density. Thousands of sensors around a city can improve municipal operations while making life safer and more efficient for citizens. Imagine how many emergency calls a city receives every day, each coming from a certain city block. To help in situations like this, one city is exploring how 5G-connected street lights could be augmented to visually guide emergency crews to specific locations.

2. Lower latency for responsive applications.

One of 5G’s defining performance characteristics is its potential for low latency. Near-zero latency is critical to any operation in which even a momentary delay might cause potentially hazardous disruptions—as when autonomous vehicles are navigating busy streets or autonomous mobile robots are traversing a crowded warehouse.

And in manufacturing, 5G’s low latency potential is essential—and especially powerful—when combined with edge computing, which processes data in close proximity to where it’s generated. Putting this kind of squeeze on lag time makes a big difference in automating operations and repetitive tasks. Robots, machines, and other devices can run autonomously with 5G in a more responsive, streamlined digital ecosystem.

What’s next? 5G is evolving toward ultra-reliable, low-latency communications, or URLLC, in which latency is measured in single-digit milliseconds. This kind of eye-blink responsiveness will be essential to critical IoT environments, such as autonomous public transit systems.


of T-Mobile survey respondents—IT and network decision-makers at companies with some level of 5G adoption—envision using 5G for IoT enablement.

3. Flexible service configuration for your unique environment.

5G is customizable, especially when deployed as a private network, giving businesses tight control over how the network is used. Network administrators can assign varying levels of support to devices and applications, depending on need.

That’s critical to organizations that are employing AI with data-intensive applications, as when video analytics are used for site security. AI and machine learning can vastly improve productivity through more precise forecasting, predictive maintenance, and automated quality controls. By churning through data streams generated by IoT and 5G, businesses can identify insights and accelerate innovation.

In short: 5G customization lets network operators maximize the efficiencies and pursue the infinite possibilities of AI.

4. Secure, ubiquitous tracking and monitoring through tiny eSIMs.

Smartphone users are familiar with SIM cards, which designate and protect their identification. The much smaller versions—eSIM—apply this same concept more broadly to the multitude of devices on an IoT network.

5G networks will be able to support these embedded SIM cards. According to GSMA, eSIM allows remote management of subscriptions, which it describes as a significant benefit for organizations with large-scale device deployments. What’s more, says GSMA, “this enables pioneering categories of connected devices.”

eSIM cards also hold great promise for IoT because they allow a system to securely authenticate devices, monitor the location and status of items, and access the data they generate. An organization can effectively track and monitor its supply chain, inventory, vehicles, and devices wherever they are. Such capabilities are crucial in a variety of industries, including agriculture, healthcare, and manufacturing.

5. Significantly faster throughput.

Massive sensing networks could become the next big thing in IoT, but they will require 5G’s sizable increase in throughput compared to earlier-generation technologies. 5G’s capacity to support many more signals—and a variety of data types—at once is vital to IoT applications and the ever-expanding universe of devices.

Not all IoT devices require high bandwidth. In some use cases—field sensors, for example—low-band connectivity may be enough. But for IoT applications that require speedy throughput, 5G provides it.

5G’s mix of low-band and mid-band frequency signals can support massive, continuous machine-to-machine communications and cope with the volume of data being captured and analyzed. Think of it as the network’s ability to multitask on an enormous scale, enabling everything from autonomous cars to virtual reality to real-time supply chain visibility.

“Our company plans to install 5G-operated sensors and updated IoT operating devices to analyze operational performance,” said another participant in our focus group. Like many new IoT projects, that capability will hinge on 5G’s advanced throughput.

“Our company plans to install 5G-operated sensors and updated IoT operating devices to analyze operational performance.”

5G "Adoption & Acceleration" Research Respondent.

Greater business synergies through the marriage of 5G and IoT.

The number of IoT-connected devices worldwide is expected to exceed 16 billion by 2025. In addition to enabling bigger, better, and faster IoT networks, 5G allows for new use cases and the ability to take businesses into profitable new directions.

One considerable advantage is security and the privacy protections that come with that. 5G offers not only more reliable and scalable IoT, but more secure IoT environments.

Coupled with 5G, the business value of IoT has never been greater. It’s a powerful combination, allowing for the more robust IoT networks that will help organizations innovate and grow, now and on the path ahead.

Discover more 5G resources.

Ready to start building your 5G future?