T-Mobile, AT&T: 5G promises longer battery life, lower device costs for IoT

DALLAS -- 5G specifications are not fully defined yet, but experts say that they think 5G advancements -- such as longer battery life and less complex device modules -- will offer many benefits to the Internet of Things ecosystem.

Speaking on a panel hosted by 4G Americas during the LTE North America conference, Cameron Coursey, VP of product development at AT&T's IoT Solutions Group, said that although existing LTE networks work well for many IoT scenarios, he believes 5G will provide the wireless industry with a chance to fine-tune some of the existing issues with IoT. For example, 5G promises to improve the integration between the wide area cellular network and short-range networks such as Zigbee.

However, Rusty Lhamon, director of M2M at T-Mobile US cautioned that all this talk about 5G and IoT could force some M2M customers to wait until 5G comes instead of migrating their existing 2G devices to LTE.  "My biggest concern is that people will get distracted and won't make these migrations to 4G like to LTE (CAT 1) and LTE (CAT 0)," he said. 

LTE (CAT 1) and LTE (CAT 0) are versions of LTE that provider lower downlink speeds and have fewer power requirements and are specifically intended for M2M communications.  For example, LTE (CAT 1) provides a maximum of 10 Mbps downlink speed compared to LTE's peak downlink speed of 300 Mbps.

Lhamon also called for the industry to use 5G as an opportunity to solve some of the current IoT dilemmas such as how to have devices that accommodate different spectrum frequencies but are still affordable. "We have so many bands. How do we manage this and make it a consistent experience?" he asked.

Not surprisingly, both Coursey and Lhamon downplayed the need for proprietary IoT networks instead of 5G or some of the variations of LTE like LTE (CAT 0) or LTE (CAT 1) or even the upcoming narrowband LTE specification that is expected with LTE Release 13. 

Coursey noted that the IoT business is not likely to be a high average revenue per user business and therefore you need to have millions of devices on the network for it to make sense.

Lhamon said that T-Mobile is focused on leveraging the core functionality of IoT with the rest of the network and with the core business. "Some operators are running IoT differently than their core business because they see it as a separate business. But I don't."

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