5G Advanced and the rise of ambient IoT

5G Advanced and the rise of ambient IoT
By: FierceWireless Posted On: March 27, 2024 View: 17

  • The move to 5G Advanced will coincide with the coming of even more low-powered IoT

  • Power companies may be among the first to take advantage of so-called ambient IoT

  • But don't wait up for 5G Advanced

As we slowly move to 5G Advanced – around 2026 or 2027 or so – one of the technologies that will take off is ambient IoT, according to Kathiravan Kandasamy, VP of product management at Syniverse.

But wait. What is ambient IoT?

Ambient IoT is a concept first conceived by the 3GPP that refers to an ecosystem of a great number of IoT devices in which every object is linked to a wireless sensor network. The ambient IoT concept also refers to devices that use energy harvested from radio waves, heat, motion or other workable options.

“Very specifically, today IoT devices that use cellular connectivity require some sort of ... module [to connect and] that footprint takes energy,” Kandasamy said. “I think with 5G Advanced it would focus on what they call ambient IoT.”

This would be “very small low-power devices where you can easily have thousands of them within radio coverage,” Kandasamy claimed. It should be noted that standalone 5G networks can already theoretically support up to 1 million devices within a square kilometer; this is known as massive machine-type communications (mMTC). This hasn’t happened yet, apart from – perhaps – in China.

Kandasamy said that energy and power utility companies will be among the first to deploy ambient IoT devices. These firms, he said, want secure IoT devices they can control that are designed to be deployed for 10 or 15 years or more. “These devices are not something you can move, right? The power meter in your house or the water meter in your apartment.”

Such devices wouldn’t need to be multimedia 5G wonders, just remain connected to the network, send power readings back to the company and not require much, if any, human intervention. “You don’t want to send people out to read or replace these units,” Kandasamy commented.

Indeed, we may find that our old friend narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) comes into the picture as a low-power communications mechanism for many such cellular IoT devices, particularly as NB-IoT can be supported under the 5G new radio standards.

Long wait for 5G-A & ambient IoT?

Of course, neither ambient IoT nor 5G Advanced are mainstream at all yet. We could certainly be waiting another three years before 5G Advanced hits, according to some analysts.

For instance, Dean Bubley, analyst at Disruptive Analysis, said that we may need to wait a few years until 5G Advanced actually arrives. The analyst has already noted that most operators still use the old 3GPP Release 15 non-standalone (NSA) 5G standard - they’re using a 4G core to support their 5G radios – although “around 50” have or are upgrading to the Release 15 standalone variant. Many operators are still on the very first rung of the upgrade to 5G.

Given that, Bubley said it is “really unclear” when exactly many operators will make the jump to 5G Advanced. “Likely first in places like China & then maybe private networks in the next 1 to 2 years,” Bubley told Fierce in an email. “Outside that, I doubt we’ll see much before 2027 or later.”

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