What is 5G RedCap?

What is 5G Reduced Capability?

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Jan 8, 2023

5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) also known as 5G NR-Light is a version of 5G that caters to mid-tier use cases. 5G RedCap brings the mix of capabilities in throughput, battery life, complexity, and device density needed to cost-effectively power diverse use cases that do not always need the high-performance capability of regular 5G technology. The concept was introduced in 3GPP Release 17 for 5G NR.

With enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive IoT (mIoT), and mission-critical IoT, the three pillars of 5G represent extremes in performance and associated complexity as represented in the spider diagram above. For massive IoT services, narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and enhanced machine type communication (eMTC) devices prioritize low power consumption and the lowest complexity (cost and coverage) for wide-area deployments (LPWA). Meanwhile, enhanced ultra-reliable, low-latency communication (eURLLC) devices deliver on the most stringent use case requirements by prioritizing low latency and reliability of the network. 5G enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) devices can support gigabits per second of throughput and are designed to prioritize low latency and reliability while providing peak 5G data rates.

5G RedCap or NR-Light is the device platform that bridges the capability and complexity gap between the extremes in 5G with an optimized design for mid-tier use cases as shown in the spider diagram above. The use cases that motivate the specification work on 5G RedCap include wearables (e.g. smart watches, wearable medical devices, AR/VR goggles, etc.), industrial wireless sensors, and video surveillance. 5G RedCap devices can efficiently support 150 Mbps and 50 Mbps in the downlink and uplink, respectively, due to the designed optimizations:

  • narrower bandwidths, i.e., 20 MHz in sub-7 GHz or 100 MHz in millimeter wave (mmWave) frequency bands,
  • a single transmit antenna,
  • a single receive antenna, with 2 antennas being optional,
  • optional support for half-duplex FDD,
  • lower-order modulation, with 256-QAM being optional, and
  • support for lower transmit power

The reduced complexity contributes to more cost-efficient 5G RedCap devices, longer battery life due to lower power consumption, and a smaller device footprint, which enables newer designs for a broad range of use cases.

Advantages of using 5G RedCap over LTE

Today, mid-tier IoT devices rely on LTE Cat-1bis and LTE Cat-4 devices for wide-area wireless connectivity and mobility. While LTE networks are expected to coexist with 5G networks in the foreseeable future, 5G RedCap can offer a new level of capability, efficiency, and flexibility. 5G RedCap can deliver higher throughput, lower latency, longer battery life, better network security, and an optimized cost structure for such applications. As the 5G evolution continues, there will come a time in the future when communications service providers start to migrate away from 4G toward 5G. With this in mind, 5G RedCap becomes the platform of choice for future-proofing new mid-tier IoT designs.

5G RedCap has the following advantages over LTE:

  • No need to support 3 different networks - NR,eMTC/NB-IoT and LTE: Operators can migrate their spectrum to NR which can support both URLLC & NR-Lite on the same carrier as well as deploy eMTC/NB-IoT either in-band or in guard-band.
  • Better system efficiency with NR compared to LTE: NR features like beam-formed operation, higher subcarrier spacing for latency reduction, massive MIMO for coverage, and mixed numerology, higher positioning accuracy, low-overhead carriers, etc. can be utilized using 5G RedCap
  • URLLC & NR-Lite can also be deployed in FR2 and new spectrum: FR2 can be very attractive for private networks due to its limited range and high spatial reuse e.g. each building or floor can have its own network and they will not interfere with each other
  • Better integration and benefits from 5G core and architecture - network slicing, service-based architecture, flow-based QoS, etc.

Applications of 5G RedCap

5G RedCap brings the mix of capabilities in throughput, battery life, complexity, and device density needed to cost-effectively power diverse use cases. For example, 5G RedCap can power the smart city of the future with applications in smart grids, environmental sensors, predictive maintenance, utility meters, high-resolution surveillance, and more.

For industrial applications, 5G RedCap can also improve operational efficiencies with optimized cost structures for the robust industrial IoT, accelerating the industry 4.0 transformation with 5G private networks. 5G RedCap brings reliable wireless connectivity and seamless mobility to the devices used in industry and enterprise. It can connect more equipment with fewer cables, process monitoring sensors for deeper operational insight, smart surveillance cameras for personnel safety, and handheld and wearable devices for richer human-machine interaction.

The small device size, long battery life, and substantial throughput of 5G RedCap devices make it ideal for many mobile consumer applications as well, such as high-end smartwatches, health monitors, broadband access for entry-level devices like tablets and smartphones, and boundless augmented reality (AR) glasses.

As 5G RedCap devices proliferate, more applications can benefit from on-device AI and intelligence at the network edge, expanding the connected intelligent edge, and further shifting the center of data gravity away from large regional and central clouds.

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