Small business owners using or considering IoT solutions should take note of AT&T’s recent advancement. The company recently achieved a U.S. industry first: successfully testing the 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) data call, setting the stage for a new generation of 5G IoT devices.
Every day, the average American interacts with various IoT devices — from smart security cameras to voice-activated systems at home or even smart parking lots and remote medical services in ambulances. AT&T’s commitment to expanding this landscape was evident when they announced having over 117 million connected IoT devices in the second quarter of 2023.
However, connectivity remains the backbone of these technological wonders. Recognizing this, AT&T recently set another milestone, conducting the first 5G RedCap data call in their lab and on a live 5G Standalone network. This achievement signifies crucial progress for the burgeoning IoT market.
Historically, with each new cellular generation, IoT devices have experienced improvements in speed, capacity, and functionality, enabling novel applications. For instance, 4G introduced mobile network tech tailored for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT, known as LTE-M.
Understanding the vast spectrum of the IoT market, which spans from simple sensors to intricate routers, AT&T identifies the role of 5G RedCap. Positioned between LTE-M and full-fledged 5G, RedCap is designed for mid-tier IoT devices that require more than what LTE-M offers but don’t necessarily need the capabilities of full-blown 5G NR.
Introducing 5G RedCap: The IoT Game Changer
Referred to as “NR Light,” RedCap offers a pared-down set of 5G features optimal for wearables, low-cost hotspots, and other devices that prioritize low battery consumption and minimal bandwidth. Introduced in the 3GPP Release 17, RedCap is tailored for devices presently reliant on LTE CAT-4, promising comparable or superior performance.
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RedCap simplifies the tech landscape for wearables like smartwatches, AR glasses, and other IoT devices pivotal for healthcare, smart home systems, and asset tracking. It boasts a core design that facilitates uncomplicated, compact antenna designs, eliminating the need for the intricate MIMO antenna structures associated with full-featured 5G NR devices.
In collaboration with tech giants Nokia and MediaTek, AT&T tested the 5G RedCap on MediaTek’s dedicated platform, connecting to Nokia’s 5G SA network. This partnership culminated in the first data call on AT&T’s live network on July 19, 2023, a milestone that will undeniably influence the rollout of 5G RedCap devices in the imminent future.
A Greener Future with 5G RedCap
Beyond enhancing connectivity, RedCap is pioneering energy efficiency for 5G IoT devices. By introducing power-saving features, it allows device manufacturers to optimize network interactions. Devices can now “sleep” longer, a boon for IoT devices that operate intermittently.
AT&T is looking forward collaborating to develop more advanced power-saving features for 5G RedCap. Though dubbed “reduced capability,” 5G RedCap leverages 5G network attributes, ensuring IoT devices benefit from superior functionality, user experience, cost-efficiency, and energy conservation.
For small business owners and consumers, the introduction of RedCap underscores the continued evolution of 5G and its potential to revolutionize the device ecosystem. As AT&T propels us into this new phase, we’re reminded that the future of IoT is not just about more devices, but smarter, more efficient, and more connected ones.