5G Mesh: Ready, steady, go – how to get started - Wirepas

5G Mesh: Ready, steady, go – how to get started

Jouni Mikkonen

Do you have an IoT device that is not connected to the Internet? We here at Wirepas believe passionately in the mesh to connect the so far unconnected devices on a massive, industrial scale. The opportunity is vast. Hence, Wirepas has invested in supporting and creating a non-cellular 5G standard for large-scale IoT networks ( Wirepas ), which is called NR+. This standard defines the basis of Wirepas' new 5G Mesh product that has now been launched and demonstrated recently, e.g., at MWC in Barcelona and Distributech in Orlando.

One of the main values of the 5G Mesh is that no infrastructure needs to be built. Every node is a base station and extends coverage, reaching out to places that are very difficult or even impossible to reach with cellular. 5G Mesh scales almost indefinitely. Building coverage and total cost of ownership is a fraction of the cost of cellular solutions. In addition, it operates on its own global, license-exempt band of 1.9GHz. The first release of the 5G Mesh product is geared towards the mains powered use cases, such as smart metering.

Well, I am getting interested, how can I get started?

5G Mesh is built together with Nordic Semiconductor on the Nordic nRF91 family of product platforms: Nordic nRF9131, nRF9151 and nRF9161. All these platforms have corresponding development kits or evaluation kits available to get you started on trying out 5G Mesh. nRF9131 is more geared towards the high volume, lowest cost product requiring RF tuning in the production. Hence, nRF9161 is the simplest path to production, as it is an all-in-one integrated module solution. Nordic suppliers and documentation are the best sources of information to understand these options and supply in more detail. The available market reach with the first product release is CEPT/EU countries (CEPT), as the release is focused on the NR+ band 1 (1880-1900 MHz). There are countries also outside the CEPT/EU countries that support NR+ band 1, such as Australia, South Africa and India. The best approach is to check with your local frequency regulation. More NR+ frequency bands and countries will be enabled with the upcoming product releases. In addition, ITU-R 5G approval opens many frequency opportunities beyond the original DECT bands.

DECT map.png
DECT map.png

Image above: NR+ reach in countries

Wirepas 5G Mesh requires a software license and the first step is to contact Wirepas sales (Wirepas). With the 5G Mesh license, you will get the software binaries to run on the Nordic nRF91 platforms. For application development, Wirepas SDK is available for download from Github (Wirepas SDK: Single-MCU Operation Overview) and the basics of the Wirepas concepts are explained within Wirepas developer portal (Support). Both are accessible publicly for anybody wanting to understand the full Wirepas offering in more detail. I encourage you to take a look. The full offering (Wirepas Connectivity Suite) from Wirepas contains also Gateway software and a backend tool, called Wirepas Network Tool, to visualize and monitor mesh network operation. All these make it easy to get started with the targeted use case.

With the Wirepas SDK, it is possible to develop any application that fits your specific IoT use case. For smart electricity metering, Wirepas provides a quick start reference application to support DLMS (Wirepas) based communication. If you are aiming to connect smart electricity metering to collect metering data, the reference application and Wirepas Connectivity Suite offering is strongly recommended as the starting point. Wirepas Connectivity Suite product components have already been tested and proven to work end-to-end in field environment installations.

Wirepas connecitivity suite.jpg
Wirepas connecitivity suite.jpg

Figure: Wirepas Connectivity Suite

What else?

I get two fairly frequent questions when people look at our 5G Mesh. The first is about the range, and the second is about product approvals. These probably warrant a blog post on their own, but here is a short summary to get you started.

The NR+ standard is built on modern OFDM technology with modern modulation and channel coding and a Hybrid ARQ (HARQ) retransmission mechanism to ensure the maximum possible range and reliability with dynamic data rates. The first release of Wirepas 5G Mesh supports +19dBm transmit power with a 1Mbps radio link speed. To understand how this performs in your specific environment, it is possible to test it either by your final application, to see actual range performance, or you can request a range measurement kit from Nordic Semiconductor to study radio level performance.

Wireless products are subject to product approval testing before being released to markets. This also applies to 5G Mesh. The relevant ETSI standard to understand required product approval tests is the Harmonised Standard for access to radio spectrum; Part 2: DECT-2020 NR. This standard defines the main test cases to run for the NR+ protocol stack layer 1 and 2 for the CEPT/EU bands. These tests must be run and certified by an accredited test house before a product can be released to the market. Wirepas and Nordic Semiconductor will verify the NR+ stack compliance and make available test software, including guidelines for repeating and running approval tests. The product vendor must validate the final product with a certified test partner according to these guidelines and example test applications.

Looking forward to new…

I used to work within the cellular data domain. We always tried to guess the killer application that will drive higher data rates. We probably made a thousand and one guesses on the use cases, but we never got these right. Who would have guessed that Facebook, YouTube, and so on would emerge to drive cellular data usage? Hence, one of the most important aspects of providing a new product on non-cellular 5G is that it is impossible to foresee what will be connected and what application will be built on top of 5G Mesh. I, and the rest of the Wirepas team, are excited and looking forward to seeing what you and others will build on top of the revolutionary non-cellular 5G Mesh!

Let’s get started now: Ready, steady, go!

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