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September 16, 2015

5G and IoT: Where do They Intersect?

CTIA had some interesting interviews that I am not going to call out specifically. I was made aware that I did not have my “Poker Face” on, when I was told about the need for 5G for IoT.

Some history: I started writing this weekly column back when 4G was just coming of age. The standard of LTE was spelled out and wireless was evolving to a packet core. We were maybe a little ahead of the curve, as my friends at ETSI did not want to speak because the 3G term was still in vogue and I was asking them to talk ahead of new releases. My friends at ETSI told me I was contributing to a “hype cycle”, as opposed to tracking with the release.

I felt that was an unfair analysis.

However, looking at the 5G announcements, I now better understand their lament.

5G is not specifically a standards specification. Most of the requirements on latency and throughput are placed in the 4G standards work.

So when I listen to people say 5G, I consider “beam-forming, antenna-signaling” as being the primary addition.

Now with that viewpoint in my mind, I got to enjoy a presentation from the folks at SunSight, who build microwave alignment tools. Their analysis is that we have a consistent history of missing the market in aligning signals between line-of-sight microwave towers. Sometimes the result is as bad as a 25 percent degradation in signal.

So if we cannot get things aligned in the backbone, what is the hope for beaming forming on small cells?

I shared this with Craig Miller and asked if IoT needed beam forming. Expecting a laugh, he told me that his latest LTE chip had an algorithm to ignore extraneous signals. It was not exactly beam forming, but something that managed bad tuning.

Other companies told me about tools to help place small cells for 5G deployments.

It then hit me, that Cat 0 antennas and half duplex deployments were going to segment the core again (something we had just stopped doing with VoLTE).

The bottom line to me is that if I were still in network planning, I would be slow to deploy and cautious about the hype.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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