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IoT For 5G Could Be Next Opportunity


Now that 5G mobile service has started to enter the mainstream, many are wondering what’s next for the technology. While there are still, unfortunately, a lot of people and companies talking about some of the ridiculous applications that were originally promised for 5G (for one, remote robotic surgery…), the more practical minded are focused on those that offer real-world potential and value.


There has been a lot of attention recently on business-focused applications for 5G. Last week’s launch of Verizon’s On Site 5G private network service is a great example of this trend. In addition, we’re begun to see pieces fall into place to start enabling services built around IoT (Internet of Things)-based applications running on 5G networks. Early efforts are targeted towards businesses, but there are signs on the horizon that point to consumer possibilities as well.


Several very different factors are driving this. For one, core technology elements and product pieces have begun to make an impact. Wireless module provider Sierra Wireless, for example, just announced that its credit-card sized EM9190 5G NR part has now been certified to run on T-Mobile’s 5G networks in the US and Docomo’s 5G networks in Japan. (The module is already certified to run on AT&T’s FirstNet and Verizon’s 5G networks in the US.) The practical impact of this news is that a wide variety of different industrial and business-focused devices can start to take advantage of these networks by simply plugging the module into a standard M.2 connection.


As simple as this may sound, it’s actually very important, because it means that device and equipment makers don’t have to deal with technical challenges, regulatory issues, and carrier certifications in order to bring 5G connectivity to their gear. Even better, the EM9190 includes support for CBRS (see “Spectrum-Sharing Technologies Like CBRS Key To More Robust Wireless Networks” for more), which is just becoming widely available and provides a very interesting opportunity for companies that are looking at building private cellular 5G (as well as LTE) networks.


Speaking of new developments in wireless technologies, a few of the other factors driving the move towards 5G IoT include recent and forthcoming additions to the 5G spec, as well as the sunsetting of some older wireless technologies like 2G and 3G. In terms of new additions, last year’s 3GPP Release 16 document (see “Look Out, Here Comes 5G, Phase 2” for more) included the final elements necessary to make URLLC (Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications) complete. Originally promised as one of the key differentiators of 5G over 4G, URLLC guarantees latencies of 1 msec and below and 5 nines (99.999%) of reliability. Real-world implementations of the technology, however, are just starting to appear. Given its perfect suitability for industrial IoT-type applications, URLLC’s “arrival” is stirring more interest in these areas.


On the consumer front, a technology currently being planned for inclusion in the forthcoming 3GPP Release 17 document called NR Light (or Lite), looks very promising. Essentially functioning as a more robust, 5G network-tied replacement for Bluetooth, NR Light is designed to enable the low latency, high security, and cloud-powered applications of a cellular connection, without the high-power requirements for a full-blown 5G modem. Practically speaking, this means we could see things like AR headsets, that are tethered to a 5G connected smartphone, use NR Light for their cloud connectivity, while being much more power-friendly and battery efficient. Look for more on NR Light in these and other applications that require very low power in 2022.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, some carriers are starting the process of “refarming” the radio spectrum they’re currently using to deliver 2G and 3G traffic. In other words, they’re going to shut those networks down in order to reuse those frequencies to deliver more 5G service. The problem is, much of the existing IoT applications are using those older networks, because they’re very well-suited to the lower data rates used by most IoT devices. In addition to industrial applications, Amazon’s Kindle book readers have been leveraging older 3G networks for their Whispernet delivery of eBooks, for example.


Finally, the overall increased focus on connectivity, as well as the transformations that businesses are applying to their operations because of this concentration on connectivity, are also having a real-world impact on IoT. Admittedly, more of this is probably due to the impact of the pandemic than the launch of 5G, but the timing of these efforts, along with the growing importance of 5G, are undoubtedly bringing together the worlds of 5G and IoT faster than may have otherwise happened.


As early adopters of IoT learned—in many cases, the hard way—there are still several challenges in bringing value-driven, cost- or time- saving IoT applications to life. But it’s clear that technological developments, increasing support from carriers, and standards advancements are all driving businesses to an interesting new era of 5G-based IoT.


https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobodonnell/2021/06/17/iot-for-5g-could-be-next-opportunity/?sh=3abbd26558e6

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