Cellular IoT – A Background
Cellular IoT, for those of us who may not have heard the term before, exists as a marriage between cellular technology and Internet of Things (IoT). Like most marriages, this union is full of promises about how life can be enriched. Yet, caveats remain. Today’s cellular IoT constitutes a combination of simple sensors communicating over the existing 2G/3G/4G networks, thereby serving the Massive IoT market segment that is generally characterised by infrequent exchange of messages, moderate tolerance to delays, extended coverage, low costs and low power consumptions.
Think of Google Home as an everyday use case of cellular IoT. At the end of 2019, there were nearly 27 billion smart devices globally with a potential to grow manifold over the next decade.
5G is coming
The digital transformation wave has now caught a fever that will not rest until the desired state of Industry 4.0 is achieved in totality. With powerful, ultra-reliable and ultra-low latency capabilities, 5G is being viewed as one of the most critical elements of this transformation, next only to cloud. It is expected to enable better use of radio spectrum, 20x faster data downloads, real-time security & edge analytics, remote operations through AR/VR among many other time critical activities. For the end users, a variety of experiences are bound to emerge which will demand varying levels of intelligence, automation and multi-tasking capabilities from the network.
There is immense positive sentiment around 5G in the industry even before it is ready to be launched and deployed at scale. Industrial companies are already co-innovating with leading players in the telco ecosystem to create models that will foster 5G adoption.
The need for 5G and cellular IoT convergence
While cellular IoT has been efficiently addressing the relatively simpler imperatives of the Massive IoT market, newer use cases such as autonomous vehicles, cloud robotics, haptic feedback, etc. have emerged as a result of the optimism around 5G and industry-wide digital transformation. Cellular IoT, as it exists today enabled by various developments in NB-IoT and LTE-M, is insufficient to cater to the highly specific and sensitive demands of the complex environment and applications of Critical IoT – a broader segment of use cases where imperatives such as time sensitivity, reliability and security are of utmost importance.
With 5G it’s not just about higher bandwidth and higher availability but development of an ecosystem through standards, supporting technologies, value chain collaborations, and end user applications, etc. to enable enriching experiences. 5G also means denser networks through at least 25x more cell sites and 2x denser fiberisation. The mobile industry is standardising several technologies. The introduction of 5G NR will enable Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) to support highly critical applications with its ability to support a wide range of frequencies for higher throughputs.
Cellular IoT on 5G network is an evolving ecosystem based on 3GPP global standards, supported by an increasing number of mobile network providers as well as device, chipset, module and network infrastructure vendors. Massive investments in spectrum allocations and network deployments have been made to ensure good coverage for the entire population in most countries.
The possible life of Mr. Sharma – an everyday man doing everyday man things
Imagine Mr. Sharma, a man who gets up from his bed in the morning, readies himself for the day ahead, proceeds to his office, figures out he’s locked himself out of his house, goes about the rest of his day worrying about how he’s going to get back in his house before finally returning home with a locksmith who charges a bomb to let him in his own house.
In the ‘Cellular IoT in 5G’ age, Mr. Sharma’s home, office and vehicle are all connected; his personalised ecosystem that is designed and built for him and whoever else he wishes to grant access to. He wakes up to an ambient welcome designed by his digital home assistant. As soon as he’s ready for work (he can choose whether he actually wants to go to his office physically or be at his virtual office doing real office work), his digital assistant will make his self-driving vehicle or virtual office setting ready, based on what he choice he makes. If he wishes to venture out of the house, he’s no longer worried about feeling the weight of the keys in his pocket. His smart phone/tablet is the central control of his ecosystem and he is its master.
Although, most of the aforementioned is hardly relevant to Mr. Sharma but one thing is absolutely certain – He sure as hell is glad Cellular IoT and 5G were wedded and most importantly, he’s party to it!