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5G Americas White Paper on Cellular Progress Toward IoT

December 7, 2017

5G Americas has published a white paper outlining the technology advancements enabling the growth of the internet of things (IoT) market, including applications for wearables, health care and connected vehicles. LTE Progress Leading to the 5G Massive Internet of Things predicts the IoT market will be a driver of the telecom industry.

The generic requirements for IoT are low cost, energy efficiency, ubiquitous coverage and scalability, meaning the ability to support a large number of connected machines in a network. Two cellular low power wide-area (LPWA) standards defined in release 13 of the 3GPP standards, LTE-M (machine) and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), meet the generic IoT requirements. They support in-band or guard band operation; device cost and complexity are reduced; a large quantity of IoT devices can be supported by a network; and battery life is extended. Release 14 introduces enhanced mobility, voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), support of higher data rates, broadcast (enhanced multicast downlink transmission) and improved positioning capabilities.

As LPWA gains interest globally, the cellular industry is advocating that cellular technologies such as LTE-M and NB-IoT will become the leading LPWA standards by 2020. Operators can add IoT services to existing 2G, 3G or 4G networks, choosing the technology based on the service provider’s spectrum portfolio, legacy network and anticipated services. As LTE-M and NB-IoT are 3GPP-standardized and run on licensed spectrum, with technical features such as carrier-grade security, the industry argues they offer clear advantages over non-cellular IoT technologies.

In a release announcing the white paper, Jean Au, a technical marketing staff manager at Qualcomm Technologies, said, “Some cellular service providers in the U.S. are already adding more IoT connections than mobile phone connections, and the efforts at 3GPP in defining standards for the successful deployment of a wide variety of services across multiple industries will contribute to the growing success for consumers and the enterprise.”

Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, added, “Network connectivity is essential for the IoT and there are many wireless access technologies currently in use. However, given the wide variety of use cases, environments and requirements, no single connectivity technology or standard can adequately serve all use cases, so this is where development of multiple 3GPP cellular technology standards can cater to the future.”.

Both LTE-M and NB-IoT will continue to evolve in subsequent 3GPP releases. Recently, the industry created the term “massive IoT” (MIoT) to reflect the potential connection of tens of billions of devices and machines, a scale that will require evolution of the standards and technology for LTE and, later, 5G. To reach massive scale, defined by 3GPP as at least 1 million devices per square kilometer, mobile networks must more efficiently support the simplest devices that communicate infrequently and are ultra-energy efficient to sustain a 10-year battery life.

Another category, critical IoT applications, will demand high reliability, availability and low latency, which may be enabled by future LTE or 5G capabilities. Declining modem costs, evolving LTE functionality and 5G capabilities are all expected to extend the range of applications for critical IoT deployments.

The white paper, which may be downloaded here, was written by co-leaders Betsy Covell of Nokia Bell Labs, and Jean Au, of Qualcomm Technologies. Vicki Livingston of 5G Americas and representatives from member companies on 5G Americas’ Board of Governors contributed to the development of the white paper.

5G Americas is the cellular industry trade association advocating for LTE and 5G in the Americas.