5G RedCap is expected to be commercially available in 2023

Since the third anniversary of 5G commercial use, with the continuous development of 5G services, new capability requirements have been put forward for 5G networks. As a "lightweight" 5G technology, RedCap continues many features of 5G by supporting slicing, terminal power saving, coverage enhancement, 5GLAN, and other technologies, and can be introduced on demand for different application scenarios, effectively meeting 5G to B business needs.

According to industry experts, based on experience, it will take at least 1-2 years for RedCap to achieve initial industrialization after standardization. Recently, at a related meeting, Li Fuchang, director of the Wireless Technology Research Center of China Unicom Research Institute, predicted that in March 2023, the industry will launch the first generation of RedCap commercial products (including network equipment and chip modules); will gradually mature.

RedCap standard evolution promotes commercial progress

RedCap (Reduced Capability), that is, "reduced capability". In the 5G R17 stage, its positioning is to be applied to medium and high-speed Internet of Things scenarios, including three business scenarios of smart wearable devices, industrial wireless sensors, and video surveillance. Because its rate is much lower than eMBB, but higher than NB-IoT and eMTC, these low-power wide-area networks, when applied to 5G application scenarios with low speed and delay requirements, helps to improve 5G network quality and coverage.

In June this year, 3GPP announced that the 5G R17 version was frozen, marking the official completion of the second evolution version of 5G. As an "innovation star" in the field of the Internet of Things, the 5G RedCap standard continues to evolve. For the R18 version, RedCap will further reduce the complexity of terminals and support medium-speed Internet of Things scenarios through 5G networks.

In September this year, 3GPP announced the first version of the TR38.865 technical report. The report clearly stated that the RedCap terminal type in the R18 version is between the R17 RedCap terminal and the LPWA terminal (such as NB-IoT terminal), that is, compared with the frozen RedCap, the R18 RedCap will support lower-level terminals. However, its performance in all aspects is higher than that of NB-IoT, which will further expand the application scenarios of RedCap and reduce terminal cost and power consumption.

Standards go first, followed by the industry. Under the guidance of the R17 standard, the industry has carried out technical verification and testing to promote the transformation of the standard to commercial use. At present, the commercial use of RedCap has begun to take shape .

The three major operators have completed the first batch of test verification

China Mobile and the industry have completed the first batch of 5G RedCap end-to-end laboratory test verification. It is reported that the laboratory test is based on 5G low frequency (700MHz) and intermediate frequency (2.6GHz), effectively verifying RedCap's end-to-end basic functions and business performance. In addition, this test also completed the VoNR call service under the 5G R17 RedCap network for the first time, laying an important foundation for RedCap to support wearable, video surveillance, power production, and other services. Recently, it was reported that Changzhou Mobile, ZTE, and Ziguang Zhanrui successfully completed the 5G RedCap technology application test, and the test results of single-user peak throughput and mobility tests all met expectations.

Shanghai Unicom, together with Huawei and Baidu, took the lead in completing the world's first 5G IoT RedCap contiguous deployment verification. It is reported that the test was completed by Shanghai Unicom in cooperation with Huawei and Baidu Apollo. This test is based on China Unicom's 5G commercial spectrum NR2.1Ghz and Shanghai Unicom's innovative Shuangpin 8TR base station. The actual measurement results meet RedCap's ubiquitous uplink in-car networking scenarios and large bandwidth requirements. According to reports, Shandong Unicom previously completed the country's first infield key technology test for RedCap terminals to access the 5G network in Laiwu, Jinan.

Shanghai Telecom completed the first 5G RedCap-based verification of the Internet of Vehicles business scenario. It is reported that this verification is based on the mobility scenario of the Internet of Vehicles, using the same 1T2R terminal configuration as 4G. The test results show that compared with 4G, under the same conditions, RedCap’s breadth and depth coverage can be improved by 7dB, and the uplink capacity can be increased by 8 times. Satisfies the concurrent uplink of multiple RedCap terminals. In the smart driving test network project incubated by Shanghai Telecom, the integration of 5G RedCap and edge computing, cloud, and other technologies will further empower smart vehicles and smart driving tests, leading to the upgrading of the intelligent networked car industry.

Through the experimental verification carried out by the three major operators, it can be seen that the application scenarios of RedCap have been expanded to the field of intelligent networked vehicles, which has broken through the three original scenarios set by 3GPP. And according to the relevant verification results carried out by Shanghai Telecom and Shanghai Unicom, RedCap meets the uplink large bandwidth requirements of the Internet of Vehicles.

Terminal and chip products are still the commercial focus of RedCap

Relevant tests and verifications have been implemented to promote the enrichment of RedCap's application scenarios. Why is the terminal chip also attracting the attention of the industry? Its root can be traced to the birth of RedCap - to solve the cost problem of 5G terminal chips and modules. As a key part of the Internet of Things, 5G terminal chips and modules are directly related to whether the Internet of Things can be implemented due to their complex design, high R&D threshold, and huge investment costs. To realize the 5G application light travel.

Returning to the commercial aspect of the industrial chain, it is not limited to assisting operators to carry out relevant testing and verification. Related equipment manufacturers including Huawei, ZTE, China Information Technology, Ericsson, Nokia Bell, etc. have also completed the key technical functions and field performance tests of 5G base stations supporting RedCap. According to previous reports, the MTNet Laboratory of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology and the IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group have completed the world's first 5G R17 RedCap base station and chip key technology tests using Huawei's commercial base stations and chips from well-known domestic manufacturers.

Chips and terminals: The 5G chip platform of the domestic Internet of Things chip manufacturer Ajie Technology has made its debut. After completing the key technology verification of RedCap, UNISOC and other chip-based RedCap test terminals participated in key technology and field tests. Vivo's terminal-based prototype also participated in key technology tests.

According to the 5G Application Sailing Action Plan (2021-2023)" previously issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other ten departments, it clearly pointed out that it is necessary to speed up to make up for the shortcomings of the industry, accelerate the development and industrialization of lightweight 5G chip modules, and further improve Cost-effectiveness of terminal modules. Driven by the policy, the commercialization process of RedCap has not only been accelerated but also spread more widely. According to statistics, in 2022, the industry will promote the maturity of RedCap technology and product development. More than 10 companies have plans for RedCap chips, and 5 chips will participate in this year's test.

Looking forward to 2023, the industry will continue to promote the process of RedCap chip terminal products beyond the testing stage. According to industry insiders, the price of 5G modules will drop by 80% in the future, reaching about 60 yuan, which is ahead of 4G IoT terminals in terms of power consumption and stability.

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