Avatar photo

Freelance journalist

Author Bio ▼

Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
January 29, 2021


Whitepaper: Enhancing security, resilience and efficiency across a range of industries

How 5G is set to impact video surveillance and the wider physical security industry

It’s been talked about (and hyped) for several years now, but 5G mobile communications is now being rolled out. Ron Alalouff examines the impact it will likely have on physical security.

It’s been a few years coming, but 5G (5th Generation) mobile telecommunications is becoming a reality in more towns and cities around the UK and in many other countries. Its exponents say it is set to revolutionise what we can do wirelessly in terms of higher speeds, considerably reduced latency, and the networking together of potentially billions of IoT devices.


Without doubt, this revolution will affect the physical security industry, not least in the video surveillance arena. According to research from Gartner, outdoor surveillance cameras will be the biggest market for 5G IoT solutions until 2022, when they will be surpassed by connected vehicles. The reasons cameras are playing such a big role is that video surveillance systems often span large sites or city locations and being located outdoors, require cellular connectivity.

High performance

Before examining 5G’s potential impact on the security industry, let’s look at some of the expected performance figures. 5G download speeds range from around 50 Mbps to 1.8 Gbps or more, though these will vary depending on network conditions. The speed of 5G networks means that a 3GB movie that took almost half an hour to download via 4G would only take around 30 seconds on 5G networks, according to Xchange.

In terms of capacity, while 4G networks can accommodate a few thousand IoT devices per square mile, 5G will provide fast network connectivity for millions of devices per square mile. Latency will become almost a thing of the past: while current 4G networks have latency rates between 50-100 milliseconds, 5G would reduce that to just 1-4 milliseconds (though real-world rates will vary), effectively unnoticeable to human senses and a crucial difference when it comes to systems that need instantaneous reaction, such as autonomous vehicles and remote surgery.

“Latency will become almost a thing of the past: while current 4G networks have latency rates between 50-100 milliseconds, 5G would reduce that to just 1-4 milliseconds…”

For video surveillance applications, the near-elimination of latency will provide a welcome boost to camera responsiveness and real-time monitoring, not to mention a quantum leap in image quality, as it is set to support 4K and even 8K video. In addition, subject to network conditions, users will be able to upload or download video to/from the cloud in a matter of seconds. Viewing live video on mobile devices is also set to be transformed with the performance boost that 5G offers. And the role of video analytics and AI will be greatly enhanced with the faster speeds and greater capacity of 5G networks.

More than security

It’s not only surveillance systems that will be augmented with the performance potential of 5G. Safe city schemes will be further enhanced so that video can be used for a range of applications, such as public safety, traffic management, fire detection, crowd management, access control and intruder detection. This will be the case whether those video feeds originate from conventional outdoor cameras or from wireless-only devices such as body-worn cameras and vehicle or drone mounted cameras. And the ability to define network ‘slices’ means that 5G can offer dedicated portions of network capacity for specific applications, doing away with the need to share capacity with multiple users.

5G will come into its own by leveraging AI-based solutions such as remote asset management, face recognition, object and event recognition, intelligent image processing and even behaviour detection, according to teletimes international.

READ: How 5G will make cities smarter, safer and more secure

It is also set to enable machine learning and deep learning algorithms to develop advanced video analytics solutions. In addition, it has the potential to increase the intelligence of surveillance systems, as well as expand video surveillance as a service (VSaaS), where video is uploaded to a centralised cloud platform rather than being stored in local systems for live viewing and video analysis, as well as analysing recorded footage.

Privacy fears

This leap in performance and new applications is all very well, but what about privacy concerns in an ever-more connected internet environment? While on the face of it this may trigger privacy worries, especially with the proliferation of networked IoT devices, the ability to increase the use of video analytics at the edge may act to dispel some of these issues. According to a Nokia blog, the ability of video analytics to anonymise images by dynamically masking people in real time – allowing users to track movement and activity without identifying individuals – will go some way to protecting privacy. Video analytics are also able to detect anomalies in behaviour, movement and environment, so that only these events are captured and stored, helping to allay legitimate privacy concerns and reducing the need to transmit and store bandwidth-hungry footage.

Aside from the debate surrounding Huawei and the security of the national 5G infrastructure, there have been some concerns voiced about the inherent security of 5G networks. 5G networks may not be insecure in themselves, but according to Raconteur the critical applications on which they will increasingly be used make them potential targets.

In theory, 5G is more secure than its predecessors, due to better encryption and the ability for network slicing. But ultimately, security is down to the shared responsibility between network operators and users, with operators needing to implement a continuously evolving risk-based approach to security.

The rollout of 5G still has some way to go before users can widely experience some of the claimed performance benefits of the technology. But there can be little doubt that it is set to transform some aspects of the security industry and at last make mobile cellular transmission a high-performance alternative to hard wired and wireless networked systems.


Free Download: The Video Surveillance Report 2023

Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector by downloading the 2023 Video Surveillance Report. Over 500 responses to our survey, which come from integrators to consultants and heads of security, inform our analysis of the latest trends including AI, the state of the video surveillance market, uptake of the cloud, and the wider economic and geopolitical events impacting the sector!

Download for FREE to discover top industry insight around the latest innovations in video surveillance systems.


Related Topics

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anthony Adnitt
Anthony Adnitt
February 2, 2021 3:16 pm

The applications you are associating with a Safe City belong in your Smart City folder.

February 2, 2021 4:47 pm

Yes good report