Design Considerations for Cellular IoT in the 5G era
Cellular IoT is a rapidly growing ecosystem based on 3GPP global standards, supported by an increasing number of mobile network providers and device, chipset, module, and network infrastructure vendors. More significantly, cellular networks offer the global coverage and high levels of reliability, security, and performance required by even the most demanding IoT applications.
Many industries are experiencing the benefits of cellular IoT, in the consumer electronics, automotive, railway, mining, utilities, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation sectors. With 5G in the market, almost every industry is exploring the potential of cellular connectivity for fundamentally transforming businesses.
5G brings a range of benefits to the IoT, unattainable with 4G or other wireless technologies. These include 5G’s ability to support many static and mobile IoT devices, with a diverse range of speed, bandwidth, and quality of service requirements. The 5G networks being deployed today are building on 4G networks, which employ both LTE for Machines (LTE-M) and Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) technologies, with 5G delivering the functionality required to support both existing and future use cases.
Growth engines for 5G cellular IoT
Figure 1: 5G offers more advantages over other wireless technologies
Increased speed and coverage: Each wireless network generation has reflected a significant increase in speed and the benefits of 5G—predicted speeds of up to 10 Gbps represent up to a 100x increase compared to 4G. 5G cellular networks provide much broader coverage and support significantly larger devices. The ability to deploy enterprise 5G networks enables IoT businesses to connect more devices with higher reliability and speed over a larger area.
Ease and low cost of deployment: Non-cellular IoT devices need to be configured to a specific network before they can connect to the world (select a specific Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth connection). On the other hand, cellular devices only need to have an activated SIM/eSIM card inserted, and they’re up and running. This makes it simple to scale up and down as needed, without heavy resource investment.
Remote management: The increased coverage provided by the 5G cellular network means you can remotely monitor connectivity, configure devices, and ensure that software and firmware updates are applied.
Low latency and high reliability: With cellular IoT over 5G networks, emergency service communications can be safer and more reliable, providing real-time data to command centers. 5G latency is faster than human visual processing, making it possible to control devices remotely in near-real-time.
Security by design: 5G networks come with built-in security measures to protect consumers. Connectivity includes protocols like secure authentication, signaling protection, and data encryption. These measures help ensure that the security problems that plague consumer IoT devices don’t emerge as problems in industrial use.
Low power consumption: Cellular IoT standards, like NB-IoT are designed to maximize battery life and reduce power consumption. This makes it possible to deploy devices in remote areas for long terms, as battery life is pushing ten years in some instances.
Cellular IoT operations with 5G
5G mobile networks are imagined to guarantee massive devices and new services, for example, enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), and Critical Communications and Network Operations. 5G IoT growth will occur in waves, with EMBB applications gaining traction first. Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) will be one of the biggest game-changers once 5G is fully deployed.
Autonomous vehicles are one of the most anticipated 5G applications. Vehicle technology is advancing rapidly to support the future of autonomous vehicles. Onboard computer systems are evolving with levels of computing power previously only seen in data centers. 5G networks will be an enormous enabler for autonomous vehicles (Figure 2), due to the dramatically reduced latency, as vehicles will be able to respond 10-100 times faster than over current cellular networks.
This will enable vehicles to respond to objects and changes around them almost instantaneously automatically. A vehicle must send and receive messages in milliseconds to brake or shift directions in response to road signs, hazards, and people crossing the street.
Figure 2: 5G-V2X communication modes.
5G will be transformational and enable many new applications that are not viable today, particularly in urban areas and cities. 5G use cases will not be limited to a particular area: consumers, businesses, industries, and cities will benefit from one or multiple dimensions of the 5G. However, instead of waiting for the fully 5G rollout, we can build the future with 4G LTE technology and validate applications and business models. And then refine and expand when 5G becomes more widely available.