5G RedCap Promises Nirvana for IoT Deployments Globally. But Can it Deliver?

Keeping IT’s attention as 5G Reduced Capacity (RedCap) services emerge will require rising above competitive solutions.

4 Min Read
5G RedCap Promises Nirvana for IoT Deployments Globally. But Can it Deliver?
(Credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

5G Reduced Capacity (RedCap) has the potential to fuel digital transformation by enabling IoT devices and use cases worldwide, but the specification is still in the early stage of proving its promise.

Last year saw limited progress as Qualcomm and Ericsson announced a few RedCap devices. Several telcos (Verizon with Nokia and MediaTek) announced tests of the early infrastructure offerings.

But the fledgling RedCap ecosystem needs to do more than marketing to convert its potential into progress, say wireless industry experts.

“Are we adjusting mobile infrastructure revenues upward to accommodate stronger than expected data traffic growth as a result of an onslaught of RedCap devices?” asked Stefan Pongratz, Vice President for RAN and Telecom Capex research, at Dell’Oro Group, a global market research and analysis firm. “The answer is no. But we are monitoring the situation and expect to see some traction over the next couple of years.”

In teams of near-term developments, Pongratz expects commercial devices in 2024 and early adopters to kick the tires.

RedCap Recap

5G RedCap was created to add value and revenue to 5G implementations by enterprises and telcos by extending the standard down to a sea of IoT devices seeking higher speeds and lower latency than current solutions.

5G RedCap delivers throughputs of 150 and 50 Mbps in the downlink and uplink, respectively. This is far below 5G's support for gigabits of throughput but still well above the capabilities of current NB-IoT (downlink of 26 Kbps and an uplink of 62 Kbps) and eMTC (Cat-M1) offerings, which support a downlink of 58 Kbps and an uplink of 1.1 Mbps).

Creators hope RedCap means broader applicability for 5G and thus drives its emergence forward, in part by serving a broader array of use cases in industry and enterprise verticals and consumer applications.

"One of the primary aims is the full integration of IoT into 5G networks is to benefit from overall system technologies such as service-based architecture, network slicing, and the flexible air interface capabilities of standalone (SA) 5G," explained Kester Mann, at CCS Insight, a market research firm in the U.K.

This would enable telecom operators to offer custom services to enterprises and perhaps consumers.

But since it’s early on, Ericsson, which makes equipment for operators worldwide, has identified these use cases as a possible match for 5G RedCap.

For consumers:

  • Smartwatch/wearable – longer battery life with richer functionality.

  • AR/VR – slim form factor AR glasses for shopping, sightseeing, mid-range multimedia, service applications, information, and education.

For industry:

  • Video monitoring – keep an eye on your entire facility using cameras and sensors.

  • Smart manufacturing – connecting every part of the process.

  • Inventory management – register your stock, move it around, and change its status when sold or delivered.

RedCap Challenges

Beyond video? While many use cases can benefit from the high-speed and low latency features of 5G and 5G RedCap, especially those supporting video delivery, attracting enterprises using LPWA networks or those using much less than 5G, such as 4G wireless, seems to be a tall task.

Sunsets drive 5G day breaks. That's the case for all the enterprises in the U.S. and abroad who have migrated their networks to 4G as operators in their countries have sunsetted slower and older 2G and 3G networks to use the spectrum and other resources for 5G rollouts.

Low-speed networks continue. Those still using tried and true LPWA networks have done so because they employ low cost, long battery life modules. The devices transmit often sporadic data that works well with low-speed connections.

Luring manufacturers to 5G RedCap for part or all of their building processes to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) seems like a bridge too far for years to come.

Spending slowdowns. The second half of last year saw a slowdown in telecom spending, vendors slashing staff, consolidation leading some to drop product lines, and more. For RedCap to evolve to fill a pitched gap between current solutions and full-bore 5G speed, low latency, and features, spending on 5G infrastructure and IoT tech needs to head upward. That’s a tall task in uncertain markets.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Wallace, Featured Writer

A veteran business and technology journalist, Bob Wallace has covered networking, telecom, and video strategies for global media outlets such as International Data Group and United Business Media. He has specialized in identifying and analyzing trends in enterprise and service provider use of enabling technologies. Most recently, Bob has focused on developments at the intersection of technology and sports. A native of Massachusetts, he lives in Ashland and can be reached at[email protected]or @fastforwardbob

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