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Unlocking the Future: How Evolving Devices Will Influence 5G Adoption

Chris Pearson – October 2023

The journey to 5G has been nothing short of transformative. We’ve witnessed how this next-generation technology has redefined the boundaries of connectivity, enabling applications and services that were previously unimaginable. But while a lot attention has been given to the capabilities of the 5G network itself, there’s an equally important story unfolding: the rapid evolution of 5G-enabled devices.

In the nascent days of 5G, the focus was primarily on smartphones. These pocket-sized powerhouses were the first to harness the speed and efficiency of 5G networks, taking everyday tasks and entertainment to a new level. But as 5G technology matures, we’re seeing other opportunities. The device landscape is expanding beyond smartphones to include specialized Internet of Things (IoT) and future ambient IoT devices. Our latest white paper, “Evolving Devices for 5G Adoption” takes us through a short whirlwind tour of how new devices are beginning to take advantage of 5G’s awesome capabilities.

The adaptability of 5G technology ensures that it can cater to a broad range of applications, from smart homes and cities to industrial automation. This diversity in device capabilities opens new avenues for various sectors, including healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing.

One of the most exciting developments in the 5G device landscape is the emergence of ambient IoT devices in the future. These are targeted to be low-cost, battery-less devices that offer a high degree of adaptability. Imagine a world where your environment is filled with smart sensors that don’t need batteries and can communicate seamlessly with each other, providing real-time data and insights. This is not science fiction; it’s the power of future ambient IoT, enabled by 5G.

The development of these new categories of devices is not merely coincidental; it’s a direct result of the capabilities offered by 5G networks. High-speed data transfer, low latency, and the ability to handle many connected devices simultaneously make 5G the perfect enabler for this next wave of device innovation.

Another noteworthy trend could be the rise of Reduced Capability (RedCap) devices. These mid-tier IoT devices bridge could fill the gap between high-performance smartphones and low-power ambient IoT devices. They offer just enough computational power to perform specific tasks efficiently, without draining resources or requiring a constant power supply. RedCap devices could be the workhorses that will populate our smart factories, monitor our health, and manage our smart cities.

Figure 1: RedCap address the middle-zone uses cases that cannot be best served or categorized as eMBB, URLLC, and mMTC

What makes this evolution of devices even more compelling is its potential to transform entire sectors. In healthcare, for instance, specialized 5G devices could enable remote monitoring and diagnostics, changing the way we approach medicine. In transportation, the use of 5G-enabled sensors could lead to safer and more efficient traffic management. The possibilities are endless, and the future is undoubtedly bright.

As you can see from the table below, many IoT devices currently take advantage of the capabilities of 4G LTE networks, from Cat4 all the way up to Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) which was covered in 3GPP Release-13. You can see the difference in the peak download and upload data rates, among other characteristics of a 5G RedCap device. This capability allows 5G RedCap to deliver much higher rates of data, opening the doors to much higher resolution video cameras and sensors, as well as dense data sets for things such as AI training data.

Category of devicesCat 4 (Rel 8)Cat 1 (Rel 8)Cat M1 (LTE-M)NB-IoT (Rel 13)RedCap (FR1)
Downlink Peak Rate150 Mbps10 Mbps~300 kbps~30 kbps150Mbps
Uplink Peak Rate50 Mbps5 Mbps~300 kbps~60 kbps50Mbps
Duplex ModeFull duplexFull duplexHalf duplexHalf duplexFlexible for FDD (TDD also supported)
Maximum UE Receive Bandwidth20 MHz20 MHz1.4 MHz200 kHz20MHz (5MHz minimum)
Voice SupportYesYesLimitedNoYes
Table 1 Comparison between LTE IoT devices and RedCap

As 5G technology continues to evolve, so too will the future devices that leverage its capabilities. This symbiotic relationship is integral to unlocking the full potential of 5G. From ubiquitous smartphones to pioneering Reduced Capability and battery-less Ambient IoT devices, the versatile future of 5G technology is taking shape right before our eyes.

We are standing at the precipice of a new era, an era where our devices are not just connected but intelligently so. Let’s embrace this exciting future and unlock the limitless possibilities that come with it.


Find out more

Discover how devices are evolving to take advantage of 5G network capabilities. See how 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap), Ambient IoT, and changing device characteristics are changing the user experience.

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