December 5, 2022

    The inclusion of 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) in the 3GPP Release 17 specification is good news for end users, IoT device manufacturers and mobile carriers. RedCap enables a new realm of 5G IoT devices and related application and service opportunities that can be expected in the next few years. There’s a lot to RedCap, and this blog post touches on the highlights. You can explore RedCap in greater detail in the 5G RedCap: RF Implications for IoT Devices white paper.

    5G use cases are typically categorized under Low Power Wide Area (LWPA)/massive Machine-type-Communications (mMTC), enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Ultra-reliable, Low-latency Communications (URLLC). Each of these has particular features to enable the delivery of services, such as extreme coverage (LWPA/mMTC), high data rates (eMBB) or low latency with high reliability (URLLC). The 3GPP specifications define the requirements to meet these needs. But many IoT applications within these categories can run with reduced 5G requirements. RedCap defines those requirements.

    What RedCap Offers and Enables

    RedCap defines IoT device requirements that need smaller, less complex and lower-cost RF solutions with longer battery life than existing 5G offerings, such as for the latest smartphones. IoT applications with these characteristics include wearables, industrial wireless sensors and video surveillance—the key focus areas of RedCap.

    5G Use Case Definitions

    • Low Power Wide Area (LWPA): is a type of wireless telecommunication wide area network designed to allow long-range communications at a low bit rate among things (connected objects), such as sensors operated on a battery.
    • Massive Machine-type-Communications (mMTC): a new service category of 5G that can support an extremely high connection density of online devices. Through the mMTC connections, devices can talk to one another by intermittently transmitting small amounts of traffic.
    • enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB): an extension of services first enabled by 4G LTE networks that allows for a high data rate across a wide coverage area. eMBB will provide the greater capacity necessary to support peak data rates both for large crowds and for end users who are on the move.
    • Ultra-reliable, Low-latency Communications (URLLC): supports use cases that require high network reliability, more than 99.999%, and extremely low latency of approximately 1 millisecond for data transmission.

    For example, some IoT devices for 5G applications do not need extremely high data rates like smartphones do. So, RedCap specifies lower data rate requirements for IoT, which significantly reduces RF design complexity for some applications. Compared to current 5G implementations, RedCap specifies lower maximum bandwidth, fewer frequency bands, fewer antennas, and fewer MIMO layers and Rx chains. It does not require EN-DC support; it reduces QAM, can run half-duplex and use TDD instead of FDD and lowers transmit power. All these mean less design complexity, which reduces cost. Additionally, RedCap supports only standalone (SA) 5G networks, so there’s no requirement to support two active Tx chains simultaneously.

    With the release of RedCap, chipsets and RF solutions targeting IoT applications from product developers like Qorvo will likely be coming in 2023 and followed by commercial products in 2024. By then, carriers will have transitioned to the SA 5G networks necessary to support RedCap devices. But that’s not all. 3GPP continues to enhance the standard and define new features for Release 18. 3GPP is also studying ways to further decrease RF complexity, reduce cost and extend battery life. RedCap will continue to evolve, bringing more benefits and opportunities to device manufacturers, carriers and especially end users. In the next few years, we should expect innovative use cases to emerge across many industries, from where IoT is mission-critical to consumer devices for enhancing lifestyles.

    RedCap use cases targeted in 3GPP Release 17.

    Who RedCap Benefits

    RedCap is good news. Device makers will be able to leverage the benefits of 5G using simpler designs and at a lower cost than current implementations while running at higher speeds than existing LTE IoT networks. End users of these devices will likely have a greater choice of 5G services tailored to specific IoT apps with different data rates, latency and levels of availability. Carriers will be able to transition from non-standard 5G networks to SA more efficiently, offering advantages in cost, efficiency and new revenue opportunities.

    RedCap is a key step in the evolution of 5G, enabling new devices and services for commercial and personal use cases that will help usher in the next generation of IoT innovation and applications. But what are the details about this new 5G Reduced Capability specification? Read the white paper to learn more.


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    Qorvo Blog Team

    One part technical, one part content, and one part strategic, our small team is dedicated to connecting you with helpful, timely insights from some of the bright minds at Qorvo.