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Ericsson ‘Fingerprints’ Radio Network To Enhance NB-IoT, LTE-M Positioning

Swedish vendor Ericsson is looking at ways to employ artificial intelligence to enable advanced “fingerprinting” of mobile radio networks to enhance the positioning resolution of LTE-M and NB-IoT devices.

The initiative will have implications for both the consumer and enterprise space, it said. However, the transformational nature of 5G will be felt more by enterprises than by consumers, according Hakan Djuphammar, head of the Swedish vendor’s European CTO office.

“5G is a step change for industries, where you can save costs and do new things. For consumers it is more gradual,” said Djuphammar, referring in the last instance to applications like augmented reality and holographic calling, which rely on lower latency and greater bandwidth.

Speaking at The Great Telco Debate in London last week, a straight-talking industry forum run by independent consultancy Lewis Insight, Djuphammar presented its work to fingerprint cellular low-power wider-area (LPWA) radio networks for new IoT positioning services as an example, essentially, of the 5G revolution among enterprises.

5G, he made clear, is not just about the three-part New Radio (NR) standard, going through the 3GPP as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communications (mMTC) and ultra reliable low latency communications (URLLC).

Instead, the term should be used to describe the developing ecosystem, covering also LPWA technologies like NB-IoT and LTE-M, and urgent core networking trends like network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN), and brand new techniques like slicing.

Djuphammar was speaking during a session that asked whether 5G is more revolutionary for enterprises than for consumers. Nokia, Vodafone and Red Hat argued the toss, besides; in each case, they concurred the enterprise opportunity is greater. For its part, Nokia urged operators to overhaul their entire networks to be able to ride the wave of industrial transformation.

Djuphammar said of Ericsson’s work to fingerprint radio networks, to enhance the positioning of NB-IoT and LTE-M devices, will have major applications for enterprises. “This is a completely a new business for operators, with applications for both consumers and enterprises,” he said.

“Operators have a big asset with their deployed networks, and an extremely large number of access points to do positioning in better way than we do today.”

Specifically, NB-IoT and LTE-M have “interesting characteristics”, in terms of the low complexity, low power, and low cost of devices, and the better link budget. With enhanced positioning capabilities, IoT devices might be inserted into keychains or shoes, or elsewhere.

More generally, he said the rise of 5G will enable robust wireless technologies in factory set-ups. “There are quite a few things that can be fixed in the industrial domain with these new technologies, and not just with NR radio,” he explained.

The introduction of wireless will minimize costs associated with reformatting production lines for new products, he noted.

“A large portion of the operational costs come when you rearrange the production line – and you reconnect cables, sensors and levers. If you can disconnect, and do it all over wireless, then you save costs when you rearrange things.”

But 5G delivers other enhancements, which make wireless technology, suddenly, appealing to industrialists. With Ericsson’s fingerprinting enhancements, as well, 5G becomes a real contender as a protocol for critical communications in industrial set-ups.

“Many factories try to connect things via Wi-Fi but are not very successful – because it’s unlicensed and doesn’t scale. It just crashes when it comes up to a certain load. There are no scheduling mechanisms; it’s by best effort,” he said.

“With 5G, you can lose the connection, you can deliver the reliability, and low latency, and you can also solve the positioning piece. You can combine all of that into one technology.” – Enterprise IoT Insights

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