Are telecoms capitalizing on IoT due to huge 5G spectrum cost?

Amit Marwah, head of Technology, India Region, Nokia Networks

Amit Marwah, head of Technology, India Region, Nokia Networks, says Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be the next big thing in the mobile ecosystem, with IoT services being a key driver for further growth in cellular. Numerous services are envisioned for IoT over cellular networks, including utility meters, vending machines and automotive applications.

Moreover, IoT opens differentiation and monetization opportunities for mobile networks. Mobile operators can leverage new cellular technology to succeed the currently fragmented landscape of machine-to-machine connectivity. IOT infact is driving the 5G research and development today, as this requires massive data consumption – caused by the huge number of sensors and connected devices.

IoT is expected to encompass 50 billion network-connected elements by 2025. This connectivity will be both enormous and far-reaching, and will have significant impact on mobile networks and will offer great opportunities to enable completely new use cases, far beyond smartphone connectivity. With the right mobile technology and strong security capabilities, mobile operators can play a significant role in capturing and delivering the IoT’s exciting new opportunities.

Two emerging mobile technologies, 5G and LTE-M, will help operators play a strong role in the emerging IoT. Trials with pre-standardized 5G technology are planned for 2018 and 5G will be commercialized from 2020 onwards. LTE for machine-to-machine (LTE-M) is a new LTE variant that will be integrated into 5G and optimized for the specific needs of sensor networks. LTE-M provides a battery life of more than 10 years, 15 dB additional coverage and minimal device costs, and is the key enabler for connecting billions of sensors and machines.

These technologies will also address operator needs for making use of new spectrum ranges, creating ultra-dense cell deployments, optimizing a network’s bandwidth utilization and power efficiency, and managing the network’s operation through unified control of its multiple layers.

IoT is seen as the third wave of the Internet and promises opportunities for the wider ecosystem. This will require new LTE-M/5G technology that provides stringent as well as ultra-reliable and predictable service levels in terms of capacity, throughput, latency and sensor connectivity – all at a reasonable cost and with reduced energy consumption.  This puts the network much more in focus as it ties machine connectivity together.

I believe that IoT will enable many new applications for use by consumers, businesses and the public sector. For eg: Smart home – Home’s temperature sensors, window and heating controllers, burglar alarms and appliances will be connected to allow wireless management. 5G will need to ensure energy efficiency, reduce unnecessary signalling and integrate the management of these diverse devices.

To meet the increasing capacity demands, 5G requires more spectrum. Hence, looking at the higher frequencies is crucial in this case. More radio spectrum is vital to meet increased demand for capacity and data rates in the 5G era. Until now, only frequencies below 6 GHz have been considered, mostly due to their favorable wide area coverage properties. While more spectrum below 6 GHz is needed (also for 5G) and innovative techniques will be put into operation to make more efficient use of already allocated spectrum, there will be a growing need to unlock new spectrum bands in the 6 to 100 GHz range.

5G will provide high quality and consistent connectivity for people and things, creating the perception of infinite capacity. Therefore, the variety of solutions for the different 5G use cases and the multiple network layers will be combined with unified control of the network operation. Different radio access layers and technologies will tightly collaborate with each other and use cognitive capabilities and Software Defined Networks (SDN) technologies.

As 5G powered IoT will expand the human possibilities of technology, 5G will be more than just higher speed and greater data capacity. IoT powered by 5G/LTE-M will fundamentally change individual lives, economy and society by expanding the human possibilities.

To make all this happen, operators should look into getting prepared for 5G – e.g. grabbing as much spectrum as they can already today, getting into the cloud over the next years and starting to look into totally new biz models in conjunction with other industries and markets than today.

By Amit Marwah, head of Technology, India Region, Nokia Networks