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How will 5G impact the Internet of Things? Qualcomm Senior Vice President Raj Talluri explains

5G will be more than a new generation of mobile. It’s a unifying fabric that will connect billions of devices in some of the fastest, most reliable and most efficient ways possible. The impact will be revolutionary, reshaping industries and transforming our world.

This new world requires not only ultra-fast connectivity for smartphones, tablets and laptops, but also bringing online a vast number of smart, efficient, often low-cost, low-complexity devices — and keeping them connected even under very challenging conditions. And while we’ve been talking about the Internet of Things for some time, with 5G, we’ll take it to a whole new level and extend the promise to some revolutionary new uses.

Qualcomm Senior Vice President Raj Talluri, who has an extensive background in 3G and 4G technology, also knows a thing or two about IoT, which is why we sat down with him to discuss how 5G will change everything we know about connected devices.

It seems like the IoT has already arrived. How is 5G going to change it?

I hear this quite a bit, and it’s understandable. Everyone already loves to talk about the IoT because we’re just starting to see its potential, and that’s exciting. But with 5G, we’ll actually help realize the promise of a massively expanded IoT beyond what’s possible with today’s technologies.

We’ll be aware of and able to interact with our surroundings to new levels — even with “things”  thousands of miles away — through very intelligent connected devices and sensors. These sensors will allow us to gather data continuously, to be proactive and, eventually, even allow our devices to act on our behalves. For example, smart home cameras will alert people when a package has been delivered to the front door, or when a stranger standing at the door. Or a baby camera will allow parents to see how well their baby is sleeping, or inform them about the baby’s sleep trends and monitor breathing and other vital signs for peace of mind during the night.

So this will be more than just individual components then? 

Exactly! Much more than smart home devices, actually. I think with 5G, the scope and scale of IoT is going to be so impressive. Imagine a city filled with a swarm of sensors, monitoring everything from traffic to environment and air quality to critical services, and this information can be communicated back to you as you navigate the city’s streets. Or think about sensors in our forests that are able to detect fires early and communicate that data to emergency responders.   

Some of the use cases you mentioned — sensors in forests, for example — can be pretty remote? How do you keep these areas connected?

That’s one of our key challenges and one that’s fun to tackle. Simply put, we need to reach the things that seem unreachable today.

The good news is that this capability is being addressed already with LTE cellular technology, which is laying the foundation for 5G. Qualcomm is driving advancements in cellular technology that make it viable to scale down to very low data rates — 10s or 100s of kbps — with narrowband LTE technologies. This gives you connectivity with very low power consumption and reduced bandwidth strain.

LTE IoT devices will use narrow bandwidth (as little as 180 kHz) to support tens of thousands of things per cell, provide deep coverage for challenging locations, and offer more than 10 years of battery life, all in a low-cost package.

So 5G will reach those unreachable devices?

Absolutely. I can imagine so many use cases for this that will have positive impact. Sometimes a device will be so remote, or so deep underground, that traditional uplink communication won’t be an option, even at narrow, low-frequency bandwidths. It might be something as simple as a gas meter in a basement or as complex as mobile mining equipment deep underground.

5G will optimize the downlink transmissions to ensure deep coverage for these devices. For the uplink transmission, 5G can additionally support the use of non-orthogonal multiple access techniques, such as Resource Spread Multiple Access (RSMA), for target use cases such as sporadic uplink traffic from battery-powered IoT sensors. 5G devices will also support multi-hop communication, managed by the network. This will allow messages to be relayed until direct coverage is available, which allows these devices to use far lower power transmissions.

How has Qualcomm been working toward these IoT advancements prior to 5G?

Making 5G a reality requires a deep knowledge of what it takes to drive new mobile technologies from standardization to commercialization and how these devices will interact with other connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This is exactly the type of expertise that Qualcomm brings to the table. I’m proud to say that we’ve been driving new cellular technologies to commercialization over the last three decades, and we’ve experienced quite a few “industry firsts” along the way. Because of our experience and expertise, we’re well positioned to meet the challenges of 5G head on and lead the world to 5G.

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