5G RedCap Poised to Boost 5G Applications

Release Date:2024-01-22 By Cao Ni Click:

Since the launch of 5G in 2018, 5G applications have been deployed at significant scale. However, as the development of 5G applications continues, certain scenarios have emerged where the current capabilities of 5G such as extreme high speed exceed the actual demands, leading to higher costs for 5G terminals and posing challenges for large-scale deployment of 5G applications.

The introduction of 5G reduced capability (RedCap), also referred to as NR Light, in 3GPP Release 17, came at the right time, achieving a trade-off of cost and performance. 5G RedCap obtains the advantages of low cost and low power consumption by reducing terminal complexity while inheriting unique characteristics from 5G such as high capacity, low latency and network slicing, enabling mid- and high-speed IoT scenarios and promoting the large-scale deployment of 5G applications. In the upcoming 3GPP Release 18, RedCap will further reduce the terminal capability. This version, called 5G eRedCap, can be described as the 5G equivalent of 4G Cat.1 and Cat. 1bis, extending the application boundary of 5G RedCap.

Currently, three addressable 5G RedCap use cases are proposed in 3GPP Release 17. These include industrial wireless sensors, video surveillance, and wearables, which can be widely used across multiple vertical industries such as smart manufacturing, smart power grid, and smart city. The application of 5G RedCap is poised to accelerate the digital transformation within these industries.

5G RedCap has broad prospects due to its cost-effective advantage. The deployment of 5G RedCap will start to take shape in the coming years with China expected to lead the initial commercial deployment, followed by a phased global rollout. According to Counterpoint Research, 5G RedCap modules will constitute 18% of total cellular IoT module shipments by 2030, indicating the significant market potential. In the long term, 5G RedCap provides an evolution path for existing mid-tier 4G connections.

ZTE "Basic + Enhanced + X" RedCap Solution

To address the application scenarios of 5G RedCap, ZTE has launched the “Basic + Enhanced + X” 5G RedCap Solution to facilitate the smooth rollout of RedCap across different stages and various scenarios, enabling 5G RedCap to go from being "usable" to being “useful”.

  • The basic 5G RedCap features ensure that RedCap terminals can smoothly access the existing 5G networks. When these terminals access the 5G network as a new type of 5G terminal, access control, user identification and a flexible bandwidth part (BWP) strategy are required. ZTE supports all these basic features to guarantee efficient connectivity of 5G RedCap terminals to the existing 5G network.
  • The enhanced RedCap features aim to maximize the usage ratio of network resources. When integrated into the existing 5G network, the compatibility with both the existing network and terminals needs to be considered for 5G RedCap. ZTE supports the 5G RedCap enhancements in terms of capacity, coverage, and power saving. In terms of capacity, ZTE provides functions such as BWP Adaptive Adding and Deleting and Non-aligned Space Division Pairing to maximize spectrum efficiency and improve the user experience in large-capacity scenarios such as multi-channel concurrent high-definition video surveillance. In terms of coverage, recognizing that 5G RedCap with reduced capabilities has limited UL coverage compared to existing eMBB terminals, ZTE supports multiple uplink coverage enhancement functions such as Joint Channel Estimation to improve the uplink coverage capability of RedCap terminals and ensure that the edge rate of 5G RedCap meets the service demand. For power saving, considering the service characteristics of some 5G RedCap application scenarios, such as multiple small-packet data transmissions from wearable devices, ZTE supports the small packet transmission (SDT) feature, which reduces signaling overhead and extends the battery standby time of terminals.
  • RedCap + X enables 5G RedCap to provide extreme performance guarantee for targeted applications, ensuring the fulfillment of service requirements. ZTE supports the customization of application-oriented RedCap network capabilities to meet the diverse needs of different vertical industries. For instance, RedCap + Slicing is provided to ensure isolation between control services and management services, which is mandatory for the power grid scenario. RedCap + High Precision Time Synchronization can also be supported for the control services in the power grid. RedCap + NodeEngine provides base station-based edge computing power for the campus, applicable in AI-based video surveillance scenarios. RedCap + uRLLC enables the implementation of remote control in smart factory while RedCap + VoNR faciliates high-definition video calls for wearables.


ZTE Achievements in 5G RedCap Verification and Application

Since the freeze of 3GPP Release 17 in 2022, which specifies 5G RedCap, ZTE has actively participated in promoting the commercial use of 5G RedCap with industry partners, encompassing completing research and verification of 5G RedCap technology, accelerating the maturity of the industry chain, and deploying multiple industry pilots.

In collaboration with four Chinese operators, ZTE has completed 5G RedCap verification at all the 5G frequency bands and using multiple bandwidths. Diverse networking scenarios, including RAN Sharing and DSS, have been verified. From lab technical verification to performance tests in commercial 5G networks, the feasibility of RedCap in existing commercial 5G networks has been proved through full-scenario verification, laying the foundation for its commercial deployment. In Thailand, ZTE, in collaboration with AIS, accomplished the first collaborative validation of 5G RedCap at 2.6 GHz in Southeast Asia. The test outcomes consistently achieved theoretical peak values for single-user throughput. In addition, RedCap + NodeEngine was verified, showcasing the capability to provide users with an end-to-end low latency of about 10 ms.

As for real industry scenarios, ZTE, with the industrial partner Brunp Recycling Co., Ltd. Cycle, has completed RedCap verification in a smart manufacturing factory, proving that RedCap terminals, with reduced cost and reduced power consumption, can meet the application criteria of typical services in the manufacturing scenario. ZTE has also completed RedCap pilots in the power grid and security industries, including the verification of power distribution automation services in the smart grid and high-definition video surveillance in the campus security scenario, demonstrating RedCap’s applicability in various vertical industries.

To accelerate the maturity of 5G RedCap ecosystem, ZTE has completed interconnection verification between the 5G network and the 5G RedCap terminal side. Partners included mainstream chipset vendors like Qualcomm, MTK, UniSOC and mainstream module vendors such as QUECTEL and China Mobile IoT. The verification tests were conducted using commercial 5G networks and pre-commercial chipsets and modules. This has proved the compatibility between existing 5G networks and RedCap terminals, advancing the maturity of the RedCap industry chain.

As a highly cost-effective IoT solution, 5G RedCap provides a superior choice for  mass-scale IoT growth and holds the potential to become the basic technology for digital transformation. ZTE is committed to promoting the commercial deployment and application of RedCap. Moving forward, ZTE will continue to collaborate with industry partners to drive 5G RedCap innovation, explore additional applications, and offer more convenient and efficient communication experiences.