PARTNER FEATURE: RedCap technology represents a landmark in 5G evolution, opening new opportunities for industry, society and heralding a new era for massive IoT.

During the Cellular IoT Next Steps: RedCap 5G+X Evolution session at MWC Barcelona 2024, China Communications Standards Association (CCSA) chairman of the board Ku Wen highlighted his expectation for the technology and the importance of jointly promoting the protocol, given its wide benefit for the digitisation of business.

The technology, defined in 3GPP Release 17, is a reduced capacity 5G technology expected to provide the optimal balance between cost and performance for key industry verticals.

Use of RedCap 5G is anticipated to offer an uptick in IoT deployments across a wide range of enterprise areas, alongside being beneficial for smart cities and specific consumer segments such as wearables.

During his appearance at the session Wen explained the technology had an “important job in promoting the development of global industry digitalisation,” emphasising it opened up a new track for 5G in industry as it had been developed specifically for this purpose.

Deployments using the standard have been conducted by operators across a number of markets in wide-ranging tests illustrating its global potential. Those trialing the technology include: SK Telecom in South Korea, Optus and Telstra in Australia, Malaysian wholesale player Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) and US operators Verizon and AT&T.

China progress
Wen indicated as the world makes strides in RedCap, it was China which has “accelerated the 5G RedCap technology for product development and industrialisation”.

By 2025 availability of the technology is anticipated to have reached cities across the country with “tens of millions” of connections expected to be delivering key applications in a range of use cases.

“At present China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and other enterprises in industry chains are carrying out technological research in RedCap,” he added, highlighting enterprises in the country and elsewhere were jointly promoting efforts for two standard platforms. One would be China specific while the other would cover the rest of the world.

In terms of segments set to benefit from use of the technology Wen identified already complete pilot projects for energy, industrial and security uses highlighting in China the protocol had “achieved a direct transition from technical standard to industry applications”.

“It’s a new 5G technology that fixes problems allowing industry change,” however he added “high product cost and low customer acceptance are the most important factors restricting the success of RedCap, and they need to be faced and then solved together”.

In order to facilitate the bright future set to be offered by use of RedCap technology in a range of “smart” scenarios in society, enterprise and consumer segments the expert highlighted a number of requirements.

Those cited were: promoting, enhancing and finalising standards; fostering an application innovation ecosystem focused on key priority segments; and cultivation of an ecosystem within industry to encourage further development and adoption.

On the key role of standards, he highlighted these were the “universal language of the world and technical support for the era of all things intelligent”.

“It is the hope that colleagues around the work will work together to promote these in future 3GPP releases to enhance the technical capabilities of massive IoT scenarios and allow people [to prepare] for a high quality information life”.

For the second area required, he cited a need to explore “the application of innovation focusing on the need of industrial digitalisation, intelligent governance and the intelligent life”.

The exploration of targeted beneficial uses for 5G RedCap would “foster new models and new formats” he emphasised, going on to discuss potential applications in “wireless sensing, equipment control and other production links”.

This is expected to be used to create specific solutions for potentially huge segments. These include within industrial and manufacturing settings, the energy and power segment, logistics and areas such as ports where “networking and other fields promote the digital transformation of industry”.

Outside of large-scale enterprise settings, applications based on the standards were said to be able to “promote evolution and upgrading” of the ecosystem for wearables, smart homes, mobile offices and other “new terminals” in emerging ecosystems.

There are high hopes for the application of RedCap. In statistics released at the Global Mobile Broadband Forum last year it was found to have a 10-fold higher network capacity than 4G with devices using it consuming 20 per cent less power than equivalent 4G devices.

It also supports key 5G capabilities including URLLC, network slicing, edge computing, and 5G LAN.

A key element cited by Wen to delivering on the vast potential of RedCap technology is the cultivation of the industry ecosystem. He highlighted the potential for working together as a global industry to promote research and development in the area.

The expert added there was a need for “industrialisation of 5G RedCap chips, models, terminals, networks, instruments and other products”.

These drives are expected to support further integration of 5G RedCap with various enhanced functions of 5G including network slicing, high precision positioning, 5G LAN, enriched terminal types and product forms to “meet the application needs of different industry scenarios”.

“Global 5G development has entered a new state”, Wen added, “the focus of 5G development is changing from accelerating network deployment and expanding coverage to how to better use the built network for value realisation”.

“We expect that 5G RedCap will stimulate the potential of 5G and create a better future,” the expert concluded.