In trials on September 21 using Vodafone’s live 5G test network CREATE in Spain, the companies achieved the first data sessions leveraging Reduced Capability (RedCap) RAN. Unlike 5G smartphones, RedCap provides basic connectivity tailored for less complex, low-power IoT gadgets.
The successful use of RedCap is a significant step toward allowing vast numbers of sensors, meters, asset trackers, and other IoT devices to leverage 5G. It reduces bandwidth and power needs so that smaller, cheaper, battery-driven devices can transmit data on 5G networks without the full functionality required by mobile phones.
“This milestone highlights a path to new commercial devices and use cases focused especially on simpler IoT connectivity,” said Dino Flore, Qualcomm VP of Technology in Europe.
The trials utilised New Radio Light (NR Light) technology to link less capable IoT devices with 5G networks. NR Light allows for tinier IoT products with extended battery life and lower costs compared to high-speed 5G devices.
Chipmaker Qualcomm facilitated the demonstration via its new Snapdragon X35 modem, which is engineered explicitly for NR Light applications.
While smartphones and other advanced gadgets will require full 5G capabilities, RedCap and NR Light pave the way for basic connectivity to be built into IoT devices like smart meters, asset trackers, wearables, remote sensors, and more. This could enhance existing IoT applications while enabling innovative new 5G-powered use cases.
“The results prove networks will soon support many more energy-efficient IoT devices,” said Francisco Martín, Vodafone’s Head of Open RAN. “Vodafone’s multi-vendor 5G provided an ideal platform to validate this revolutionary IoT connectivity trial.”
The companies tout ongoing collaboration to further advance simplified 5G technology tailored for low-bandwidth IoT devices before commercial products launch as early as 2024. Their work also aims to accelerate the adoption of related IoT innovations leveraging the latest 5G advancements.
“5G RedCap unlocks new consumer and enterprise IoT use cases,” said Isidro Nieto, Ericsson’s Head of Vodafone Network Technology. “Ericsson embraces new ways to fully realise the value of 5G services and this joint demo shows that that the support for RedCap is gaining market momentum.”
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