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WiFi vs. 5G: Choosing Comm Tech for Solar Street Light with Camera

The trio of forces comprising modern surveillance needs, clean energy transition and communication technology innovation have driven the increasing popularity of solar street lights equipped with cameras.

When procuring this type of solar street light, buyers often encounter two main models for the surveillance camera: Wi-Fi camera and 5G camera.

This article will explore these two technologies, discussing the pros and cons of each. Then you can gain a clearer understanding of which option best suits your use case.

WiFi vs. 5G: Choosing Comm Tech for Solar Street Light with Camera

Exploring WiFi and 5G technology

WiFi and 5G are both communication technologies, each serving distinct purposes in wireless connectivity and data transmission.

Since its invention in 1997, WiFi has been celebrated for its widespread use and reliability generally within enclosed spaces, including domestic, commercial and office settings, providing an economical option for stable internet access for short-range communications.

Meanwhile, 5G is the latest high-speed cellular network standard which was first released in 2019. It has been widely touted as a disruptive technology, capable of transformation on a similar scale to AI, IoT and machine learning (ML). Its integration with IoT has brought about numerous efficient, smart applications, including solar street lights with 5G camera to be covered later on.

When choosing between them in the context of data transmission technology, power consumption and speed are the key considerations.

On average, WiFi technology consumes less power than 5G. Its transmission speed can range from hundreds of Mbps to over several Gbps depending on the standard it is applied. While 5G provides dramatic improvements in latency and bandwidth compared to its predecessors, 3G and 4G networks. 

WiFi is often more power-efficient for stationary or semi-stationary use cases within its coverage area. 5G works well to efficiently serve a wide range of scenarios from daily high mobility to massive IoT deployments. However, 5G generally has higher power consumption than WiFi, though it has undergone bettering.

Solar street lights with WiFi camera: Pros and cons

It is reported that the WiFi 6 (802.11ax) standard has already overtaken the share of WiFi 5 in recent years. In other words, mainstream WiFi technology now provides a speed of theoretically at least 1 Gbps. This can satisfy the requirement in most data-heavy situations like the media streaming of high-resolution surveillance imagery.

Beyond speed, another advantage of this communication tech for the application on solar street lights is their lower power consumption.

This is because every watt counts for solar street lights. Although the conversion efficiency of solar panels has acquired great increases over the years, solar street lights should always maintain a balance between aesthetics and functionality, being smaller panels and sufficient luminous flux for the lighting area.

One major weak point is that WiFi is primarily tailored for indoor uses over shorter distances. The effectiveness of its signal penetration decreases with distance and obstacles.

If your project is planned to use solar street lights with WiFi camera, in most cases, you should factor in the expenditure on supporting infrastructure, including the construction of routers and access points. A systematic measurement and assessment at the location are necessary pre-construction, which involve potential interference from geography and weather conditions. 

How about the pros and cons of a 5G camera?

5G technology is tailored to provide robust outdoor coverage and capacity, addressing the needs of urban applications. Its improved bandwidth and speed than its predecessors makes it a reliable communication technology for media streaming.

Since its supporting infrastructure including base stations and network backbone has been prepared by public utilities, solar street lights with 5G camera are a go-to option for projects in urban areas, or at least in the suburbs where they provide a comprehensive 5G environment.

To be more realistic, several factors should also be considered to determine if they are an ideal choice.

One is the stability of the local 5G network. This technology is overall at a stage of deployment and fine-tuning. If the location has marked changes in population’s activities within a day, generally relating to at-work and off-work, does the data transmission fluctuate distinctly or stream smoothly? If the 5G network is not that mature as expected, you can weigh if it is okay to downgrade to 4G cameras, in which case you may need to compromise on the imagery quality this tech can provide.

Another factor is the cost of mobile data usage. This can shift to be the foremost consideration as the cost can vary dramatically by country and region, even for the older-version 4G data. In the application of data-intensive remote surveillance, the accumulated cost can be rather high, especially for those large projects. This may contradict the concept of ‘economical and green urban governance’.

Final Word

Both solar powered street lights with WiFi camera and 5G camera present their ideal use cases.

The former better suits projects in a more 'controllable' setting. Developers can build communication infrastructure as per the specs and needs of the project, e.g., deploy the routers and access points scientifically and economically for a reliable yet efficient data transmission channel.

On the flip side, the latter is a handy option in an ‘uncontrollable’ setting: you cannot alter the public 5G network or sometimes it’s not cost-effective to erect/connect to your own network environment. For most, it is a good choice for small projects in communities, commercial and industrial blocks.

No matter which option to go for, we cannot deviate from the working principle of these lights: photovoltaics.

Adding a camera to a solar street light equals adding a load to the circuit. Confirm that the location has sufficient and stable solar irradiation. Ensure the efficiency of the panel, the capacity of the battery can suffice for all the loads.

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