‘No infrastructure, no middlemen’ – Wirepas preps ‘first non-cellular 5G’ for industrial IoT
IoT connectivity company Wirepas is readying a new mesh-based industrial IoT technology in the license-free 1.9 GHz spectrum band to go up against cellular-based private 5G systems. Its new product, called Wirepas Private 5G, is based on the new DECT-2020 NR standard, set to be absorbed as the first non-cellular technology into the International Telecommunication Union’s 5G family of technologies.
The DECT-2020 NR standard was developed to support “broad and diverse” wireless IoT applications, including both massive machine-type (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low-latency (URLLC) communications, as also defined in cellular 5G. It was signed off by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in October 2020, with major input from Wirepas.
The Finnish firm, also responsible for the proprietary low-power Wirepas Massive (formerly Wirepas Mesh) technology, which has found decent support in the smart buildings space, notably for lighting-as-a-platform systems, hailed the DECT-2020 NR standard as an “infrastructure-less and autonomous non-cellular 5G technology”, and as a basis for its forthcoming Wirepas Private 5G system, pegged for release next year.
To date, only cellular technologies have met ITU requirements for mMTC and URLLC (and enhanced mobile broadband) communications. The new Wirepas-backed ETSI standard, which multiplies radio infrastructure with every new device placed into a mesh system, is the first to be lined up to join.
Where its previous BLE-like Wirepas Massive system was for indoor comms, the new 5G-like system claims “significantly longer range” for indoor and outdoor connectivity. It also affords support for ‘massive’ density of industrial IoT devices in private edge-network setups, and URLLC-type latency and reliability, according to Wirepas.
A statement said: “The new standard lets any enterprise set up and manage its own network autonomously with no operators anywhere in the world. It eliminates infrastructure, equipment, middlemen, subscriptions – at a tenth of the cost in comparison to other market solutions. It means, for the first time, that any business [can] finally digitalize their business with world-class, reliable and affordable 5G connectivity.”
It continued: “[The] network builds itself [with] each device capable as a regular base station. Combining this decentralized approach with global, license-free 1.9 GHz spectrum means these benefits will become mainstream and easy-to use. Demand for affordable networks is high for businesses looking for scalable, high-density applications in areas such as smart meters, buildings, logistics, and cities.”
Teppo Hemiä, chief executive at Wirepas, commented: “Time, complexity, and cost have stood in the way for a wide adoption of 5G IoT. No technology could cost-efficiently connect millions of devices. We are paving the way for a true adoption of IoT, beyond cellular solutions – making subscriptions, infrastructure, tower sites and equipment unnecessary.
“When the technical aspects of 5G for IoT systems become plug-and-play, businesses can instead focus on extracting the value from their solutions, for better decision making and efficiency… Current technologies and operation models [have] difficulties. We already have a product, Wirepas Massive, that can solve many IoT problems. Now we have standardized that technology and are developing a product, Wirepas Private 5G, for even more demanding applications.”
Meanwhile, Swiss IoT module maker u-blox has specified Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52833 system-on-chip (SoC) for its NINA-B4 units, running Bluetooth 5.1 and BLE, with support also for Wirepas Massive. The NINA-B4 series includes the NINA-B406, which comes with an internal PCB antenna, and NINA-B400, which integrates a U.FL connector for use with an external antenna. The series also comes with u-blox’s ‘u-connect’ software, supporting a range of IoT use cases and easy configuration.
Wirepas claims its Wirepas Massive software is the only solution to combine sensing, monitoring, control, positioning, and large-scale inventory in a single technology. Mesh networks based on the Wirepas system are optimized by local decision-making to reach “unlimited scalability, coverage, and density whilst using the available radio spectrum as efficiently as possible,” according to Wirepas.
The NINA-B4 module also supports Bluetooth 5.1, including direction finding. It can operate at an extended temperature range up to 105°C, suitable for deployment in harsh environments, said u-blox. It stated: “Designed to act as both a transmitter and receiver (using angle-of-arrival and angle-of-departure direction finding), the NINA-B4 modules bring the benefits of high-precision positioning to indoor applications.”