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What is 5G NR Light?

The 5G NR Light term is standardized to 5G RedCap NR in most 3GPP documentation

While 5G Release 16 introduced 5G NR (5G New Radio) to enhance mobile broadband services, Release 17 further supports Internet of Thing (IoT) in the form of “NR-Light”, known as “reduced-capabiliity NR devices” in 3GPP parlance, according to Nokia.

Such devices will enable use cases like surveillance cameras and industrial sensors to use 5G technology, in addition to some wearables and consumer IoT devices.

Nokia noted that NR-Light devices are likely to be limited to narrower bandwidths, lower peak data rates and fewer antennas in order to reduce cost and complexity, while still enabling advanced connectivity

According to Ericsson, the main engine for driving 5G forward for fast growth and rapid adoption is its radio access technology, referred to as New Radio (NR). The flexibility and scalability of 5G NR makes it possible to introduce timely enhancements to address new use cases to help expand the 5G ecosystem and connect more devices to the network. “One recent example is NR support for reduced capability (RedCap) devices. This work item has been approved in the 3GPP RAN plenary in December 2020 and the feature will be introduced in 3GPP Release 17. The introduction of reduced capability NR devices can facilitate the expansion of the NR device ecosystem to cater to the use cases that are not yet best served by current NR specifications.”

5G NR Light use cases include wearables, sensors, surveillance

Ericsson explained that the use cases that motivate the specification work on NR RedCap include wearables (smart watches, wearable medical devices, AR/VR goggles, etc.), industrial wireless sensors, and video surveillance.

The Swedish vendor also noted that these three use cases have less stringent data rate requirements than enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) use cases, and do not require tight or deterministic latency requirement as time-critical communications use cases.

“On the other hand, these use cases have very different requirements than the low-power wide-area (LPWA) use cases currently addressed by the LTE-M and NB-IoT solutions. For example, the data rates need to be higher than for LPWA. Furthermore, there is a constraint on device form factor for certain wearable use cases. The consideration of use-case requirements drives the choices of key physical-layer parameters for RedCap. These choices have a direct impact on the complexity and cost of the device hardware platform. We foresee that RedCap devices will be positioned as a lower segment than eMBB, but higher than LPWA devices,” Ericsson added.

Generally speaking, RedCap is positioned to address use cases that are today not best served using eMBB, ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) or LPWA solutions.

Ericsson also highlighted that the 3GPP Release 17 work on the support for reduced capability NR devices is an important step to further expand the addressable market of 5G NR.

“It’s worth mentioning that some of the wearable and video surveillance use cases are currently addressed by LTE-based solutions. NR RedCap offers a path for migrating from LTE to NR for these use cases. Such a migration path is important as it can accelerate the spectrum re-farming from LTE to NR a number of years down the road,” Ericssons said.

New 5G NR Light features coming in 3GPP Release 18

Christian Kim, senior analyst, IoT, at Omdia said in an article that the 3GPP is working on adding new 5G RedCap NR features in Release 18. The analyst said that some of the new features that are being considered include higher data transmission rate compared to the data rate specified in Release 17, location-based service applications (e.g., asset tracking), device to device protocol (sidelink) and support for unlicensed spectrum.

“The first release of the 5G RedCap specifications (from the 3GPP Release 17) is scheduled to be finalized in June 2022. Considering a lead time from standard finalization to a first product release is less than two years, the first 5G RedCap NR hardware -a chipset or a module – product is expected to come out in late 2023 or early 2024,” Kim said.


Juan Pedro Tomás
Juan Pedro Tomás
Juan Pedro covers Global Carriers and Global Enterprise IoT. Prior to RCR, Juan Pedro worked for Business News Americas, covering telecoms and IT news in the Latin American markets. He also worked for Telecompaper as their Regional Editor for Latin America and Asia/Pacific. Juan Pedro has also contributed to Latin Trade magazine as the publication's correspondent in Argentina and with political risk consultancy firm Exclusive Analysis, writing reports and providing political and economic information from certain Latin American markets. He has a degree in International Relations and a master in Journalism and is married with two kids.

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