Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

5G Americas whitepaper explores IoT’s future

Steve Rogerson
July 24, 2019



Trade association 5G Americas has published a whitepaper that explores the market drivers and technology for the IoT, trends in verticals and applications, and an overview of developments in 3GPP standards for cellular IoT.
 
With some analyst firms forecasting 20 billion connected things and $1tn in worldwide spending by 2020, the overall IoT is achieving the scale expected for the massive IoT, which refers to tens of billions of devices, objects and machines that require ubiquitous connectivity, whether mobile, nomadic or stationary.
 
The 3GPP global standards organisation has been future-proofing cellular technology to meet market requirements across a vast number of vertical industries for massive IoT, which by definition means at least one million devices per kilometre.
 
With the move towards 5G, mobile networks are expected to support efficiently the simplest devices communicating infrequently that are energy efficient for the long term with ten-plus years’ battery life. In addition, for critical IoT, the URLLC ultra-reliable low latency communications radio and architecture are defined in the standards and will be essential for verticals such as smart factories and industrial automation.
 
“The future-proofing and delivery of IoT becomes essential as networks transform from 4G to 5G,” said Vicki Livingston, vice president of 5G Americas and an author of the whitepaper. “In 2019, we are seeing the early deployment of 5G networks. However, LTE IoT will continue to evolve over coming years, leveraging the scale, longevity and global coverage of LTE networks and complement initial 5G New Radio deployments that focus on enhanced mobile broadband and high-performance IoT. Continued LTE evolution is an integral part of the 5G platform – a unified, more capable connectivity fabric for our future.”
 
The “5G: The Future of IoT” whitepaper highlights the 3GPP standards that are being developed through Release 17 to address the many diverse requirements of the IoT, looking at both massive and critical IoT segments. The factory automation vertical and several new features to allow operation of 5G systems together with IEEE TSN time sensitive networking are described.
 
The paper also provides an update of spectrum options for licensed, unlicensed and shared bands. In essence, these 3GPP standards are in themselves a market enabler in the future-proofing and delivery of IoT as networks transform from 4G to 5G.
 
“The growth path for IoT has been immense and it is easy to recognise it all around in cities, vehicles, industries and communities,” said Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas. “In these transformative times, a flexible system of transformational technology such as 5G can provide the infrastructural foundation for the expanding demands coming in the form of not only more devices but also specialised devices with varying performance requirements.”
 
As of June 2019, there were 56 networks worldwide offering LTE NB-IoT Cat-NB1, the 3GPP radio standard that addresses the low-power, wide-area requirements of the IoT characterised by improved indoor coverage, support of a massive number of low throughput devices, low delay sensitivity, ultra-low device cost, low device power consumption and optimised network architecture.
 
In addition, 24 networks offer LTE-M or enhanced machine-type communications (eMTC Cat M-1), supporting lower device complexity, massive connection density, low device power consumption, low latency and extended coverage while allowing the reuse of the LTE installed base, according to data from TeleGeography.
 
Both LTE-M and NB-IoT can be deployed in-band within a normal LTE carrier, or standalone in dedicated spectrum. NB-IoT can also be deployed in an LTE carrier’s guard-band. Beyond Release 13, there is a roadmap of LTE IoT technology innovations that deliver additional enhancements to meet tomorrow’s massive IoT requirements in 5G networks.
 
“Technology such as cloud computing, edge cloud and artificial intelligence are being applied to IoT use cases with much success,” said Betsy Covell from Nokia, a co-leader of the whitepaper working group. “In addition, security enhancements to keep all the data generated by these things protected from hackers is addressed by the cellular technologies for IoT. 3GPP is meeting the challenge of the developing IoT market with many enhancements in 5G, building on the solid base provided in 4G that addresses key performance indicators such as low latency, high reliability and positioning accuracy necessary for industrial, enterprise and even consumer use of IoT devices.”
 
The whitepaper was written by Nokia’s Covell and Rajat Prakash of Qualcomm, as well as Vicki Livingston and representatives from member companies on 5G Americas’ board of governors, who participated in the development of this report. The whitepaper is available for free download on the association’s web site 5gamericas.org.