RedCap Emulation: The Foundations for a New Wireless Technology

Sep 8, 2023

As is typical with new technologies, 5G started with limited coverage to enable high-speed, high-powered applications, and networks continually filled out to the edges, with the current focus being on support for reduced capability (RedCap) devices. 5G RedCap promises to reduce complexity and lead to more cost-efficient devices, longer battery life, and a smaller device footprint.

Introduced in 5G NR Release 17, RedCap is designed for mid-tier IoT devices with average speed and latency requirements, supporting devices deployed at the network edge for IoT and Industry 4.0 applications. The breadth of applications that could be enabled through RedCap are wide and varied, from smartwatches to environmental sensors and everything between. And therein lies the major challenge - with such a broad range of use cases, how can network operators and other stakeholders within the wider 5G ecosystem test to ensure RedCap’s functionality and reliability?

The Wide Scope of RedCap Applications

1. Consumer Applications

RedCap's enablement of small device size, long battery life, and substantial throughput make it ideal for mobile consumer applications like high-end smartwatches, health monitors, and augmented reality glasses. Testing in this domain would need to look for reliable connectivity across different network conditions and efficient power consumption.

2. Smart Cities

RedCap has the potential to revitalize and revolutionize smart city infrastructure by enabling applications in smart grids, environmental sensors, predictive maintenance, utility meters, and high-resolution surveillance. Testing in this scenario would need to account for integration with existing city systems and robust performance under various environmental conditions.

3. Industrial IoT

Equipment sensing and maintenance and easier wireless surveillance are two of the clearer use cases within industrial IoT. In these instances, testing would need to account for challenging locations and environments with potential for the devices’ ability to handle weaker signals or signal interference from industrial equipment or weather conditions.

4. Private Networks

RedCap's ability to be deployed in FR2 (millimeter wave frequency bands) can be attractive for private networks due to its limited range and high spatial reuse. One aspect of testing in this scenario would be ensuring that each building or floor can have its network without interference with each other.

5. Integration with 5G Core and Architecture

RedCap offers better integration and benefits from 5G core and architecture, including network slicing, service-based architecture, and flow-based QoS. Testing would need to ensure that these integrations are seamless and that the network can handle the increased complexity.

6. Migration from LTE

As communications service providers continue their migration away from 4G towards 5G, RedCap will likely become the platform of choice for future-proofing new mid-tier IoT designs. Testing in this scenario would need to ensure a smooth transition, maintaining connectivity and performance standards. 

The Need for RedCap Device Emulation

The first port of call for every new wireless technology is the laboratory. So, in short order we can expect vendors and operators to start announcing tests, collaborations and results from pilot programs. But none of that can happen without some form of emulation of RedCap devices and traffic. OEMs and operators will need to understand the network load, requirements and performance of RedCap-enabled devices for them to get their networks ready for RedCap. 

Here are some of the key aspects of what RedCap emulation will offer:

  • Realistic Scenarios: Emulation enables the creation of realistic traffic patterns and RedCap-specific signaling from thousands of devices carrying traffic, providing a true assessment of network performance.
  • Fading Channel Models: Emulation incorporates fading channel models that emulate real-world wireless propagation conditions, including multipath propagation and signal fading. These are crucial for testing the performance and reliability of a live network environment.
  • Integration with Existing Test Environments: RedCap device testing can be seamlessly integrated into existing test platforms, allowing for a smooth transition and efficient testing process.
  • Accelerating RedCap Adoption: Emulation adds essential validation capabilities, further accelerating RedCap adoption by ensuring that devices meet the required standards.
  • Boosting Confidence in RedCap: It ensures that equipment manufacturers and operators can pursue development and deployment with confidence, knowing that the devices have been thoroughly tested.
  • Enhancing Performance: Emulation helps assess the performance of RedCap devices in challenging propagation conditions, ensuring that they can withstand real-world scenarios.
  • Facilitating Commercialization: By providing a realistic testing environment, emulation boosts the commercialization of 5G IoT, paving the way for a new era of connectivity.

There is rightly a lot of excitement in the industry about the potential for RedCap, but as the technology moves from PowerPoint presentations to the labs, emulation will become the critical success factor. The wireless ecosystem has a lot to gain when RedCap is commercialized and we’re at the critical juncture where it needs the foundation of a robust testing infrastructure for it to become what the whole industry hopes it can be. The future of 5G IoT commercialization depends upon it.

Contributed by

Viavi Solutions

Country: United States
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