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Where does 5G and IoT come together?

July 2019 by John Russell, Market Industry Manager chez Keysight

The Internet of Things has less to do with 5G than most people think, at least initially. The vast proliferation of devices by 2020; in some estimates 50 Billion devices, will not wait on the rollout of 5G for that to be realised. The majority of those connected devices will be what the wider public understand (or think they understand already) in Bluetooth and Wireless LAN.

The humble (and not so humble) versions of wireless LAN will continue to dominate the landscape for close proximity wireless connections through the foreseeable future. The opportunity comes in how these close proximity technologies are connected themselves to the Wide Area Network.

In an agricultural trial for instance it is not possible, or at least not economically feasible, to link sensors spread over a large area of land via the same types of technology used in a home or office. This is where LTE starts to bear fruit with the advent of categories of devices specifically intended to use much lower bandwidth, and therefore require much less power, over a wide area network. Using this technology first with 4G will be the supposedly seamless link to 5G as it too is rolled out. Of course, there are other proprietary LPWAN technologies already available eg SigFOX and LoRa and these too will have a role to play in the proliferation of an ‘everything connected’ world.

The advantage of a 3GPP regulated environment comes in the transformation to 5G. Its guaranteed levels of service not only provides the high bandwidth super-highway. It also allows for the existence of the millions of devices that will require extremely intermittent access to the network, use very limited power and consume miniscule amounts of bandwidth while doing so. However, it is necessary for there to be some form of security of access as well; that when the 15kHz of bandwidth is needed it is readily available; that the devices connected are securely connected to the world and data and information are not unintentionally available to anyone other than those it is meant for. If a device uses less power and bandwidth it sends data on the network for a small amount of time.

So, the question is, as a designer how do you find trust in these devices efficiency ? If you are the service provider, how do you assure yourself that the device is safe to use, will not affect the network operation by using too much bandwidth. Or is secure to use on the network – that it does not become a back-door route into the network for malicious intent?

The standards set by 3GPP provides answers to most of these questions, with a great deal of thought and consideration given to the needs for a functional, usable, reliable and secure operation – providing the performance needed. Testing the operation of such devices, or even replicating the environment in which they work is a vital part of that service assurance. Having a conformance test system which has coverage for the various tests needed is a vital part of this testing. Having the ability to replicate the RF conditions in which the device is expected to work – with fading and massiveMIMO (mMIMO) antennae - is just one of many aspects of the testing too.

Now if one vendor can provide all these tools – and with the application software to share the information garnered across these same tools – then that would be true value add.

Various tools, tests, security, network emulators and authentication can be test all at once allowing a best assurance on devices operations before they are sold on the market. As the milestone of 2020 approaches with the much vaunted 28 billion connected devices – the question arises of how this can be managed in such a way as to ensure the security, the integrity and the promise of a 5G network can be truly realized.




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