By Steve McCaskill
Ericsson says upgrades to its cellular networking software will help operators accelerate the adoption of the Internet of things (IoT) by enhancing indoor coverage and enabling cheaper, more energy efficient devices.
The equipment manufacturer predicts there will be 26 billion connected devices by the end of the decade, including seven billion M2M devices. This, it says, will add strain to cellular networks, especially in indoor areas where a significant proportion of use occurs.
Ericsson Networks Software 16A enables License Assisted Access (LAA) by coupling operators' licensed spectrum with unlicensed airwaves commonly used by WiFi routers to provide a short term boost in crowded areas. The technology, known as LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U), could improve the efficiency of small cells and speed up downloads by up to 30 percent.
Another update, Ericsson IoT Networks Software 16B, also improves indoor reception on 3G networks by up to seven times—allowing low rate applications to function in remote locations and even underground.
Software 16B also supports LTE Category 0—a simplified version of LTE which can reduce device costs by 60 percent. Many leading smartphones support LTE Cat 4 and above, but given M2M devices perform more simple tasks than handsets, such complex technology is not required. The software also improves battery life with a new deep sleep state as Ericsson works towards its goal of a 10-year lifespan for M2M devices.
Finally, Software 16B allows for the prioritization of traffic in certain situations. For example, transmissions from a health device might take precedence over a recycling bin and some low priority systems can even disconnect for a while to preserve bandwidth. Of course, such functionality might depend on local net neutrality laws.
"We are accelerating IoT growth on existing LTE and GSM networks to ensure a global foundation for a vast range of new consumer, industry and government applications, from Smart Cities to connected farms," said Arun Bansal, senior vice president and head of business unit radio at Ericsson.