5G is about expanding wireless access technologies to a much wider range of verticals, in sectors like utilities, automotive, industrial, broadcast, healthcare and satellite. Thus its significance reaches beyond the sectors to a new and evolving eco-system of cross-industry collaboration and partnerships triggered and catalyzed through 5G.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU-R) set the minimum technical performance requirements for 5G for the year 2020 (IMT-20201), with the intention to describe how the new radio interface technologies might be different from previous wireless access generations. The most significant features include support for ultra-low latency, high reliability, advanced antenna technologies, millimeter wave spectrum, massive numbers of devices for Internet of Things (IoT), spectrum flexibility (including operation in high frequency bands), and inter-working between high and low frequency bands.
The success of 5G depends on the smooth migration and efficient coexistence of the current wireless systems and the new systems. To achieve that, 3GPP defined two types of deployment architecture, non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA). The first wave of 5G NR network deployment and devices are referred to as 5G NR NSA, where LTE is used as an anchor carrier to ensure coverage and to provide signaling on existing 4G LTE networks, while NR is used at higher frequencies to provide high capacity. The SA mode, however, removes the need for an LTE anchor and requires a full 5G network buildout. The initial deployment is expected in low bands, as well as mid bands to serve new use cases, such as private or enterprise networks.
One of the key ingredients of 5G, which has already gained its place in the 5G era, is LPWA technology. It is important to note that despite the fact that both LTE‑M and NB‑IoT use the 4G LTE air interface, they are both part of 5G, as both meet IMT-2020 mMTC requirements. Furthermore, NB‑IoT and LTE‑M devices that comply with 3GPP Releases 15, 16 and 17 will continue to use a 4G LTE air interface. 5G NR radio access networks can provide in‑band support for LTE‑M and NB‑IoT as an option (at the mobile network operator’s discretion), as specified in 3GPP Rel 16 (completed in June 2020).
The term 5G IoT describes 5G technologies and use cases specifically for IoT devices and networks (as opposed to those focused on mobile phone or mobile broadband replacement). It consists of the evolution of existing LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies in the Massive IoT (mMTC) space at the low end. It further includes technologies in the uRLLC space for high end applications like automated driving and critical infrastructure, as well as the technologies in the mid-tier enabled by RedCap and NR Industrial IoT (NR IIoT) for applications like collaborative robots, AGVs and Ultra-HD surveillance cameras.
1 ITU-R M.2410-0, “Minimum requirements related to technical performance for IMT-2020 radio interface(s),” November 2017.