Fixed-access broadband providers can carve out a significant role for themselves in the 5G frenzy, either by adding mobile capabilities or expanding their fiber assets to support wireless providers' extensive need for fiber.
Ericsson earlier this month shared its view of cellular IoT's evolution, which is broken into four market segments: Massive IoT; broadband IoT; critical IoT and industrial automation IoT. Broadband IoT adopts mobile broadband capabilities for the Internet of Things, supporting higher data rates and lower latencies than massive IoT across about 4.1 billion devices by 2024, Ericsson wrote in a white paper.
Ericsson unveiled solutions in each segment. Within Broadband IoT, for example, it included drone detection and link control, radio access network (RAN) slicing, advanced subscriber group handling and multi-gigabit LTE for 2Gbit/s data throughput and approximately 10 millisecond latency for use in automotive, drones, AR/VR, wearables, smart manufacturing and connected utilities. Critical IoT technologies are applicable to autonomous vehicles, while industrial automation befits "collaborative robotics in manufacturing," the vendor said.
Because massive IoT involves low complexity IoT devices -- think very basic sensors -- connectivity is equally simple. These units use cellular connectivity to transmit data. Typically, the devices are based on NM-IoT and Category M (CAT-M) technologies that don't need fixed-broadband infrastructure. However, service providers or their customers do require sophisticated networks, data collection, analytics and other technologies (security, storage-management and business intelligence, perhaps analytics-as-a-service and a whole menu of cloud-based offerings for a cloud-savvy service provider).
Some segments, like industrial automation, which easily could take over vast manufacturing floors and factories, want to remove cables and wires, said Marie Hogan, head of broadband and IoT, Business Area Networks at Ericsson. That's one reason the vendor offers a radio system for this market. And Ericsson expects 5G's ultra-reliability and low latency -- down to less than 1 millisecond -- will potentially replace a good percentage of wired infrastructure along with their potential for being cut or tripped over, she said.
"We expect, if you have a 4G network, it's possible to deploy both the massive IoT and the broadband IoT segment from a technology capability point of view and that will address a certain number of use cases across a certain number of industries," said Hogan. "And if you were evolving that 4G network and adding 5G capabilities then you can address [more segments]."
Fixed-asset providers' role
While the business case for snipping these sometimes dangerous or hard-to-reach cables -- for deployment, maintenance and repair -- make sense, especially with 5G's anticipated integration of new capabilities, fixed-asset service providers can carve out a role within the mobile world.
Some operators are, of course, adding wireless services. Charter Communications, for example, offers a competitive mobile service (Spectrum Mobile) that leverages the cableco's WiFi system to enable a lower cost per-gig offering to residential customers. After all, 5G will be a $619 billion market for service providers by 2026, Hogan said, citing an Ericsson report.
"Don't miss the opportunity to explore those new developments," Hogan said of advice she would give to wired providers. "Start looking at 4G and start thinking about 5G."
These thoughts could include partnerships between fixed and wireless providers, where service providers leverage their fiber infrastructure and mobile partners handle the 5G-based IoT technologies so the two can meet the needs of specific customers, such as smart manufacturing or smart construction, she noted.
"There is quite a long list of partnerships that we and many of our operators are solving together in many cases," she said. "There are many proof-of-concepts out there. Collaboration and partnerships will be key."
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.