The trend to support multiple connections under a common platform is not limited to wireless broadband services. As the pace of the Internet of Things (IoT) increases, the need for machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, many of which are wireless, will increase significantly. They will have a wider range of performance requirements that reflect the large number of different applications that can occur under the IoT umbrella.
No single technology can meet these requirements, and there is a long list of wireless IoT protocols. This will likely become more established over time, but several important IoT profiles will require at least one open, standardized technology. These profiles vary in how well they support:
- Extremely low and medium power consumption
- Long range vs local vs very short range
- Low and medium data transfer rates
- Ultra-low latency and low latency
- Critical Availability vs Standard Availability
- Unlicensed vs Licensed Spectrum
(Note: Some proprietary protocols may continue to be used in professional environments, such as public safety or railroads.)
Due to the prevalence of standard series, WiFi can handle a wide range of profiles. This means it will work independently or with more specialized protocols or cellular networks in most IoT environments. Some IoT applications, such as vehicle services or video applications, such as connected security cameras, will require the bandwidth of a wireless broadband network for other requirements, such as low latency (in critical environments, this may be on a private network or slices).
WiFi is uniquely positioned to support broadband and narrowband IoT applications with a common platform operating at different power consumption levels and signal ranges. The next 5G standard, Release 16, will prioritize IoT-oriented features such as sub-4ms latency and ultra-high availability to support new use cases in the Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) category.
Capabilities-Based Positioning Of Some IoT-Focused Wireless Technologies
|WiFi 5 and 6||Moderate||Moderate to long||High||Low||Unlicensed|
|LTE Cat-M||Low||Moderate to long||Moderate||Low||Licensed|
|LTE Cat-IoT||Very low||Long||Low||Very low||Licensed|
|Sigfox||Very low||Long||Very low||Very low||Unlicensed|
|Bluetooth Low Energy||Very low||Short||Low||N/A||Unlicensed|
|802.15 – ZigBee, Thread, 6LoWPAN||Very low||Short||Low||N/A||Unlicensed|
Source: Maravedis and Rethink Research
LPWAN (Low Power Supply Network)
Low-power wide area network (LPWAN) connectivity is a particularly interesting IoT example that requires multiple technologies, possibly using WiFi (most commonly deployed in networks and devices) as a common link. This is a key area, along with the well-established WPAN standard, where non-Wi-Fi technologies operate in a largely unlicensed spectrum. WiFi and LoRaWAN are the two most widely used unlicensed technologies, and together they cover most IoT applications. These technological approaches are disrupting the public and private sectors’ business models and enabling them to participate in the success of 5G. The WBA and the LoRa Alliance have published a joint white paper showing how We can synergistically use these two widely used IoT connectivity technologies to effectively support a wide range of applications.
LPWAN will support smart transportation, smart lighting and asset-tracking applications. LPWAN is a good example of how multiple unlicensed and licensed spectrum technologies will co-exist. How is a trademark of the 802.11ah standard that allows WiFi in the unlicensed sub-GHz spectrum to support LPWAN applications? Other unlicensed spectrum options include LoRa and Sigfox, while the licensed bands have two LTE-based options: LTE Cat-M and LTE Cat-IoT. Each technology supports a different balance between power consumption and data transfer rate, making it best suited for different applications. As a result, you must embrace the best IoT services to adapt to these rapid changes and grow your business using them.
Many service providers are already implementing two or more of these technologies simultaneously. Therefore, they can support the various services that create the Internet of Things. For example, combining communication technologies in complex environments such as smart cities will be the key to economically viable and feature-rich solutions. The key is handling use cases with different requirements and integrating them into a common platform.