Microwave Journal

First Non-Cellular 5G Technology Sets Example of New Era Connectivity, Gets ITU-R Approval

October 19, 2021

In a pioneering decision, the industry’s first non-cellular 5G technology standard has been recognized by International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) and included as part of the 5G standards in IMT-2020 technology recommendation. Wirepas, a Finnish company on a mission to democratize IoT, is the key contributor of the new standard that sets an example of future connectivity: the infrastructure-less and autonomous, decentralized technology is designed for massive IoT networks for enterprises. It has no single points of failure and is accessible to anyone, costing only a fraction of the cellular networks both in dollars and in carbon footprint.  

    No middleman 

    No infrastructure  

    No subscription fees 

    Free dedicated international frequency 

    Dense and massive network capabilities  

    One tenth of the cost of cellular 

    Lowest carbon footprint of large-scale networks 

The new IoT standard, defined by ETSI brings 5G to the reach of everyone as it lets any enterprise set up and manage its own network autonomously with no operators anywhere in the world. It eliminates network infrastructure, and single point of failureat a tenth of the cost in comparison to cellular solutions. It also enables companies to operate without middlemen or subscription fees as well as store and consume the data generated in the way they see best fitting for them (on premises, in public cloud or anything in between). 

“Why should cutting-edge connectivity be optimized for a selected few? Why should only the few benefits from technology mastery and collect profits? We believe latest technology made affordable is the foundation of a more egalitarian business environment, a more egalitarian world. Wirepas opened its revolutionary mesh technology to everyone and the resulting new 5G IoT standard has been built ground up so that anyone, even small and mid-size companies, can afford and understand it. This is the first technology that can cost-efficiently connect millions of devices. It’s the first step towards digitalization for masses with much more to come,” said Teppo Hemiä, CEO of Wirepas. 

Another democratizing aspect is the frequency. The new 5G standard supports efficient shared spectrum operation enabling access to free, international spectrums such as 1,9 GHz. Jussi Numminen, head of RF at Wirepas, explained, “There’s a lot of talk about private networks but this is the first 5G technology which can support shared spectrum operation and multiple local networks in mobile system frequencies. We see this as a fundamental requirement for massive digitalization for everyone. With the new standard you get immediately access to a free, dedicated 1,9 GHz frequency internationally. It is a perfect match for massive IoT.” 

Technology-wise the new non-cellular 5G is built on completely different principles from cellular 5G. One of the biggest differencesand advantagesis the decentralized network. In a non-cellular 5G network, every device is a node, every device can be a router – as if every device was a base station. The devices automatically find the best route; adding a new device into the network routing works autonomously as well and if one device is down, the devices will re-route by themselves. It means reliable communication eliminating single point of failures. 

A decentralized mesh with short hops and small transmission power also means a significantly lower carbon footprint of the communications system. A recent study in Tampere University in Finland saw an approximately 60 percent better energy efficiency at system level compared to traditional cellular topology with the same radio energy profile. Hemiä sees this figure will get even higher, “These results were achieved without optimizations that are already under development. Once these are taken into account, we expect significant potential for an even better energy efficiency. This is an important point to consider when we start to see very large-scale adoption.” 

The new 5G IoT standard is suited for businesses such as smart meters, Industry 4.0, building management systems, logistics and smart cities. It will assist in the urbanization, building, and energy consumption in the construction of these smart cities. It also opens opportunities for new use cases, scaling at mass the levels of communication for future. The energy transition from fossil fuels to electricity boost local renewable energy production and consumption market requiring new communication capabilities. This creates a circular economy and allow for the traceability of goods, raw materials and waste. 

“This new 5G IoT standard has been the missing piece in the wide-scale adoption of IoT. We know today only 5 percent of things that will be connected, are connected. To connect the remaining 95 percent, we need to let go of how things have been done in the past and dare to go a different route. We see this new standard as the start of a new era for connectivity,” Teppo Hemiä summarizes and concludes: “Many great international connectivity standards have been born in Europe. Many of our employees have been part of creating those. Now we are proud to bring in the next big European contribution.”  

Developed by ETSI, the new 5G IoT standard, ETSI TS 103 636 series, is currently called DECT-2020 NR  The standard was published last year. The first product, Wirepas Private 5G, will be available in 2022.