Watch this webinar, where we discuss many different aspects of 5G for the IoT.
Welcome to this 5G global outlook webinar hosted by Telenor Connexion. My name is Martin Whitlock and I’m the CTO of Telenor Connexion and with me today is Jelte Jansons, a product manager for IoT here. First of all, we will go through an outlook of 5G with a focus on the enterprises and what the real implications for them to consider are.
I’m sure that many of you have been following in the press and read about 5G but, if you’re not into the details on a daily basis there could confusion and questions with regard to what it actually is and how it affects you as an enterprise. You’re probably looking into the potential of 5G for IoT applications and when we can start use it.
Let’s start by looking at it backwards. There have been several generations of mobile networks over the decades and there has been a ten-year cycle that has seen the introduction of a new technology within the mobile industry approximately every ten years. That is a very long time for mobile operators but not such a long time for enterprises producing goods that they want to have connected so it’s important to consider these lifecycle aspects when you design your solutions.
2G was the first technology to hit the market at mass scale and was designed for voice and messaging and simple services but it was also used for some IoT-related things, although in those days the terminology was machine-to-machine (M2M). Now, we’re in the Internet of Things era and 5G is the first technology that is having an impact on IoT use cases as part of the design pattern from the start.
We’ve been using other technologies for these services in the past but it’s been a bolt-on of using networks that were actually designed for other types of communication. Now with 5G, we introduce things like critical communication, we have IoT mobility solutions like LTE-M and narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) which to some extent are already working in 4G but are definitely part of the 5G era.
Now I’ll hand over to Jelte Jansons.
[Jelte Jansons:] I will talk about what 5G is and we mentioned there is some confusion in the market because 5G consists of three different things. The first is actually mobile IoT and that is a smarter way to use the internet of things so we can make a connection and have a battery life of around ten years and very good deep indoor location coverage where that is possible. This is because we are giving the device less to do. This is a little bit confusing for many because most of us when thinking about 5G think about doing more.
The traditional message about this generation of connectivity is that it will enable more and we will get more bandwidth in cities but also in rural areas. It will be faster a fast and secure and immediate response is very important because it enables many use cases. Both mobile IoT and critical communications are technologies specially designed for the Internet of Things whereas enhanced mobile broadband is primarily designed for consumers but now enables many new innovative IoT use cases.
Let’s look at the mobile IoT where less is more. A longer battery life of ten years without charging is possible by using less radio and this enables use cases like sensors in buildings that have a lifecycle of ten years but don’t have access to power. It also enables other use cases, for example having a battery life of one week instead of having to charge every day. That can change a lot for example for an application tracking assets for one week. This might be a very good way to trace assets that are without power for a week and then after a week perhaps get power again so it doesn’t have to be so extreme as these ten year examples.
This is a matter of tuning and tweaking and it also gives better indoor coverage when systems are especially designed to work in underground parking garages and cellars, for example. For smart meters this can be efficient but you can also simplify. If a device has two antennas and you strip out an antenna and remove a lot of hardware you have a very efficient design which in mass production can give much better module prices than regular LTE.
We believe this mobile IoT is an important part of the 5G family introduced during the 4G area so you could say it’s 4.5G but the important thing is that this is 5G-compatible. Ericsson already says 52% of the use cases in 2025 that are cellular they will use this technology – LTE-M and NB-IoT.
We believe that a lot of use cases, especially those that are still on 2G and 3G will move to the mobile technology using LTE-M or narrowband IoT. Enhanced mobile broadband is the first example where the general public is thinking about 5G. Here, it’s mainly about video streaming which is one of the use cases in this troublesome time of the COVID 19 where we have seen a drastic change in usage patterns. Before the crisis, the usage pattern was that people were surfing the net and they used the data to read emails and perhaps to send some messages and we used one data stream for example if we were watching a movie or downloading something.
That was the behavior but now what we see is that everybody started remote working so there’s massive streaming as a consumer use case but also massive streaming to enable things like remote maintenance. Remote maintenance is going to become more important and easier to do with the 5G globally while on the move. Let me give a practical example.
A worker is an expert of a specific machine and not many people that have this expertise. The machine is located in Spain while the worker is in Sweden. Before COVID 19, she would have flown to Spain, repaired the machine and flown back but now, due to travel restrictions she could use a video stream working together with a local Spanish colleague and together inspecting the machine.
She can give detailed instructions to this local worker what to do or perhaps even remote control it to do the kind of repairs needed so video streaming is going to be more and more important because we believe that even after the covet crisis, once people start to use video streaming on a larger scale this would only continue. This kind of use case of remote maintenance or having video streaming enable remote working in customer support will only increase so enhanced mobile broadband is for massive streaming where people cooperate with the Internet of Things so when you have people that are working with other people or machines are working together.
Let’s take a look at the example of self-driving cars. Self-driving cars on the public road need very fast communication so they can warn each other if there’s a problem or they can actually automatically start braking or perform autonomous driving. A lot of use cases are about autonomous driving on public roads but many of these use cases we find that people are talking about are quite advanced and driving self-driving cars on the public roads is actually not just about technology, there’s much more needed than that.
It’s perhaps better for us working as enterprises today to think about what is the kind of use case that is not so advanced but actually really good for critical communications and that is closed industrial environments. One example is a container harbor and in this container harbor there are cranes that lift containers from ships and put them on trucks. It’s a closed industrial environment and it’s very important that things go fast through it. Another example is robots working together to make a finished product and for these robots to communicate with each other they need very fast communication so they can do the production correctly.
This must go very fast and it should be very reliable because if the production stops it’s very expensive for the manufacturing company but it’s not life-threatening.
Self-driving cars are more an example where you have other aspects to consider outside of the technology. We think the first use cases we think that will happen in critical communications are these closed industrial environments where machines are working together.
We can look a little from an engineering perspective at what is it, how does it work and I think it’s always good to look at it from that perspective. If you understand at a high level how the technology works, you understand how it fits better and what you can do with your use cases and how these fit in the complete telecommunication landscape.
5G mobile IoT is about longer battery life and we achieve that very simply by laziness. If you want to have a long life, you tell your children sleep more and do less and this is what we do with radio so the devices go to sleep mode so they don’t send so much radio. There is a disadvantage if you do that and you put a device to sleep mode then it’s not very responsive. If I would like to take a nap right here and I slept during the live stream I would be full of energy when I come out the live stream – with a full battery but for you the audience it would not be so nice because I would not have good responsiveness. It’s the same for your IoT devices.
Better indoor coverage is achieved by automatic repetitions but also by tweaking the radius to make it stronger or less strong under certain radio. The smart thing about is that it enables you as the IoT developer or as the company that is deploying IoT devices to find the right balance between how fast must it be and how much battery life you save. Sometimes by tweaking a little bit, you can save a lot of battery without losing all the responsiveness.
Enhanced mobile broadband that is introducing new radio bands on a high frequency but also there are many antennas here that are working together in the system at the same time and what is happening here is beamforming. With beamforming, radio signals are being sent to a specific device instead of to all devices in the cell at the same time. It brings a direct relationship between the tower and the device. Because we use high frequencies we have addressed problems in cities with buildings and cars. To do this, we need a lot of small cells and either extra towers or perhaps smaller towers that are closer to the cars so that we can have good mobile connectivity.
Now, the good news is that you as an enterprise don’t have to care about that but it is a headache for operators. The devices they will not notice, they will just go to the different cells and handovers will go very smoothly because that’s how the mobile network is designed to work.
[5G response time considerations]
The final thing with critical communications is the speed. How fast can we make it? Well, the speed of light is the maximum, if you can do it better than please call us.300 kilometers in one millisecond so if you need a response of one millisecond then you need to make sure you are quite close to the cloud. A lot of enterprises have put their data from local data centres into central clouds but if you want to have a very fast response, your architecture needs to be redesigned and a decentralization of data communication and computation is needed so it’s not just about putting in a SIM card and it works. You also need to consider there are two parts. There is a part which is local so you have a local site with a local radio network a private radio network and the robots or the machines have very fast connectivity because all the data stays there.
Then there’s of course the other central cloud. The central cloud is not replaced by edge, by the local site. The central cloud is good for most use cases so why should you put data in a central cloud and not on a local site. The reason to put things in the central cloud is of course cost and it’s much easier to scale on a central cloud that’s why we have moved to the central cloud.
For those use cases where you need a fast response and you don’t want to share all that data to the central cloud for security reasons then you can use an edge so this is the edge technology used for critical communications.
[When can we start using 5G?]
Well, we have here a forecast based on our experience of the industry. We have been in this industry since the 1990s of course and this is a forecast we do not guarantee. We already know that mobile IoT is available today so mobile IoT is connectivity technology that is part of the 5G family that is available today and also it’s already available globally starting with a few roaming partners which will be extended during the coming year.
Massive streaming with enhanced mobile broadband needs new radio auctions in many countries so we see that in Asia, enhanced mobile broadband is already there and in parts of the United States I believe enhance mobile broadband is also there. In Europe, we’re a little bit behind, there are still auctions going on.
The first deployments are around 2020 and globally they will be available and that means that roaming will be working by around 2023. We expect critical communication will take more time that’s because the standardization of critical communication has just been finalized and that means that right now we are in piloting phase so it’s a very early days for the critical communication and edge technology.
We got a question in the previous webinar about LTE-M and narrowband-IoT and 5G. We say LTE-M and NB-IoT are supported throughout the lifecycle. How does that work well at the beginning? You can say that all the 5G deployments that are deployed right now are in so-called dual mode or non-standalone mode and it’s like the first electric cars that have two engines – the petrol engine and the electric engine. This dual mode is using 4G LTE as the first technology, as the anchor technology, that means that 5G devices first will connect to the 4G and then say they would like to use 5G and they get redirected to 5G. 4G is still there so LTE-M and NB-IoT can use that 4G on those lower frequencies.
When 5G standalone is here and we have only the 5G new radio technology there might be no 4G LTE according to the standardization but we believe very much that LTE will be around for a very long time to come and even if it would not be that case, that LTE-M and narrowband IoT are exactly designed to work in 5G new radio.
LTE-M and narrowband IoT are future-proof technologies for 5G. So, what are actually the real implications for enterprises perhaps Martin could you try to summarize?
It’s a hard thing to do to summarize. This it was a very good presentation but if you want to take a few takeaways away with you, I think that the first one is that 5G is starting to be deployed pretty soon but the first use cases will be the enhanced mobile broadband, meaning that operators will likely focus on the urban areas to roll-out 5G to get more capacity for mobile broadband use cases and support consumers and the professionals that want to use their handsets to a large extent.
That said, this will of course also open up additional case use cases for it, for instance within the frame of video streaming and such things which Jelte talked about but maybe the roll-out patterns would be urban areas first and then spreading it out to the rural areas. The second point is that critical communication is still in the pilot phase and partly realized with private LTE networks that will evolve into private 5G networks and so on, on the edge. I think that this will open up brand new use cases for mobile applications, it will be enabling factories in an Industry 4.0 type of manner to be automated using the help of mobile communication but also something that will be added on top of the five-year roll-out plans that we’re seeing today.
The third and maybe the most important takeaway at least for those of you who consider implementing IoT technologies in your products today is mobile IoT and here we have LTE-M and narrowband IoT which are part of the 5G era but specified to work on top of today’s LTE networks as well. These are an excellent bridge between applications that can start to work already today but also live on into the 5G area and thereby be future-proof.
Of those two technologies LTE-M is the one that we see as best fit to replace existing solutions on 2G and 2G and it opens up opportunities for additional, even more extreme use cases but with limitations in term of responsiveness.
Those are the three things we think that you should be taking away but there are also some questions that have been posted in our chat function which we will try to answer.
The first is: What are the use cases you see that are enabled specifically by 5G?
[Jelte:] 5G is the first cellular technology that is really made for the internet of things and there are actually two things. It’s a mobile IoT that you can have a battery life of around 10 years, something that is not possible with regular LTE, but also when you look at the critical communication the ultra-fast response capability. In general the enhanced mobile broadband bandwidth can make certain use cases possible. For example, I have here in front of me a picture of four faces and they’re not moving that’s because the bandwidth we’re having here is limited. Just imagine in the future we enhance this into a virtual reality where we have those where I can actually see you in the room and I can interact with you because you know that’s the hard thing for us as presenters here. If we don’t see your faces you know what we say and what you ask us is only a very small part of the communication so it will enrich in many different aspects.
I see there is another question: What are the differences between LTE-M and narrowband IoT?
The differences are they are both mobile IoT technologies so they are both let’s say supported by operators. LTE-M is more fit for as a replacement technology for use cases that are now on 2G and 3G if you just look at the amount of bandwidth that you can use. Narrowband IoT is really designed to be as efficient as possible to have the most efficient network usage. It is a narrowed down version of normal LTE with the similar kinds of mobility. It’s very difficult to answer that in one second but please go to our website we have a whitepaper and more information where you can read more details about the differences.
I see another question: Will 5G replace 4G?
MARTIN: That’s of course a very important question to ask. I would say spontaneously no.
If you look back, you can see that we still have technologies like 2G around. Why do we have that? Well, it’s partly our industry’s fault actually. The IoT or M2M industry has installed a bunch of devices, I will be bold and say that maybe still the majority of the live M2M applications are relying upon 2G coverage so for that reason it’s very hard for operators to just cancel the 2G coverage although I know that many would like to because of the spectrum efficiency that are introduced with new technologies.
This opens up new utilization of spectrum which is a natural resource so it’s scarce in that sense but then looking at the frequency bands that we are currently using primarily for 4G it’s in relatively low frequencies meaning that here is not where 5G as a concept with the beam forming and all that will make the biggest difference. It’s actually up in the higher frequencies so from that sense 4G is still rather efficient in the frequency bands being used today while 5G opens up for the additional frequencies higher up.
Jelte also mentioned this in his presentation that 4G will be used as a base layer for coverage and for communication for a long time but it will also continue to live within the 5G area for a long time. It will not replace 4G per se but they will live in symbiosis for quite some time.
There’s a similar question here will 5G replace Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi of course is the connectivity technology that is used to connect most of the IoT devices and some people might say okay 5G replaces the need for Wi-Fi. We think that’s not true and Wi-Fi is a is a very good technology for local situations for example where you have connectivity inside one building and you can manage the connectivity yourself.
Mobile technology like 4G and 5G is able to get you a managed solution that means that in a central way we can we can help you to monitor the network so it’s always somebody with IoT expertise monitoring the network, you can also make sure that your devices work everywhere so not only in one building but in all the buildings in the city or all the cities in the country or all countries in the world and that ecosystem exists for very different kinds of use cases so together those technologies will enrich each other.
Time for one more question. There was a question about indoor coverage and how to gain connections through steel walls.
I’m not an architect but modern house building includes a lot of steel and those who have a degree in radio communication know that steel cages are equal to Faraday cage which effectively blocks radio signals if it’s built in a bad way. This means that the indoor coverage of course becomes even more relevant when it comes to new buildings. What 5G does is to have this beam forming compensating a little bit for the really high frequencies that are being used. The higher frequency the shorter the range normally but beamforming compensates that and concentrates the efficiency in one direction so we can still use the high frequencies even though we want good coverage.