5G & Cellular IoT for a Brilliant Future

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. A brief background of Cellular IoT.
  2. 5G is coming.
  3. What is the Need for the Convergence of 5G and Cellular IoT?
  4. Effect on the Common man.

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

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.

What is the Need for the Convergence of 5G and Cellular IoT?

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.

How Will Mr. Sharma’s Life Be Affected?

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!

FAQs

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data. This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities. There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major usescases of optical fibre cables include intenet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

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