AT&T Labs Achieves 5G RedCap Data Connection, Revolutionizing IoT Devices

AT&T Labs has made a groundbreaking achievement in the world of wireless technology, successfully establishing the first 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) data connection in the United States. This significant milestone is expected to pave the way for the next generation of 5G Internet of Things (IoT) devices, opening up new possibilities for a wide range of applications.
AT&T Store SnellvilleJason Sikes, Assistant Vice President of Device Architecture at AT&T, shared the news in a blog post, expressing AT&T’s commitment to spearheading the development of IoT technology. In 2022, AT&T made history as the first U.S. provider to reach 100 million IoT connected devices, a number that has grown to approximately 117 million as of the second quarter of 2023.

Two weeks ago, AT&T achieved another momentous feat by completing the first 5G RedCap data call in both their lab and a live 5G Standalone network. This breakthrough is instrumental in the continued growth and evolution of IoT applications.

To understand the significance of this achievement, it’s essential to grasp the role of 5G RedCap in the broader landscape of IoT technology. The 4G cellular generation introduced Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT technology with LTE-M, catering to simple sensors and low-power devices. In contrast, 5G is designed to handle high complexity use cases. However, there exists a middle ground: 5G RedCap, positioned between LTE-M and full-featured 5G NR, caters to mid-tier IoT applications that demand higher bandwidth and lower latency capabilities than LTE-M can offer.

RedCap, also known as NR Light, targets devices such as wearables and low-cost hotspots that require lower battery consumption, cost, and bandwidth. It offers equivalent or even better performance compared to LTE CAT-4, with a theoretical maximum downlink throughput of up to 150Mbps. This technology significantly reduces the complexity, size, and cost of 5G devices, making it particularly suitable for space-constrained IoT and consumer wearable devices.

Moreover, 5G RedCap introduces power-saving features similar to those available for LPWA LTE-M devices. For instance, eDRX allows devices to “sleep” for extended periods, conserving power until an event prompts communication with the network. This feature is especially valuable for IoT devices that may have long periods of inactivity.

AT&T tested 5G RedCap on MediaTek’s RedCap platform connected to the 5G SA network, constructed using Nokia AirScale. On July 19, AT&T successfully made the first data call on this live network, marking a significant milestone for the U.S. wireless industry. The achievement sets the stage for the future release of 5G RedCap devices, expected to hit the market in the coming years.

Looking ahead, AT&T is collaborating with the industry ecosystem to further enhance 5G RedCap’s power-saving capabilities. These improvements include advanced 3GPP power-saving features like wake-up signals (WUS), early paging indications (PEI), PDCCH monitoring adaption, and more.

With this groundbreaking achievement, AT&T has positioned itself as a leader in the IoT revolution, propelling the development of innovative devices that will transform various industries, from healthcare and asset tracking to smart home systems and fleet management. The possibilities are limitless, and as the technology continues to evolve, consumers can look forward to a future where IoT devices are more efficient, powerful, and seamlessly integrated into everyday life.