To understand how useful mid-band spectrum is, it helps to consider the three primary usage categories in the planned evolution of 5G. Current and future use cases for 5G can be categorized into three main buckets: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), critical IoT with ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), and massive IoT with massive machine-type communications (mMTC). Mid-band spectrum is the one flavor of 5G that’s likely to be employed for all three of these usage categories.
The eMBB usage category is what it sounds like: an iterative enhancement of the mobile broadband we’re already familiar with. So its use cases include phones, tablets, hotspots, laptops, and fixed wireless. The high-speed upload and download capabilities will also support initial augmented reality use cases and mobile work applications like virtual desktops or digital workspaces.
Faster throughput and much greater capacity will make applications with dense data types, like video, work better and more smoothly. To achieve this, the eMBB usage category will use mid-band along with low- and high-band spectrum.
A second usage category is critical IoT with ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC). This will include use cases with very little tolerance for latency or for interrupted or dropped signals. So think of a smart grid, smart factories, autonomous vehicles and devices, remote robots and drones, mobile bio-connectivity, and lots and lots of other use cases, including ones we haven’t yet imagined.
Very high reliability and very low latency will support the next generation of automation and connected intelligent solutions. For this, critical IoT will primarily take advantage of both mid-band and mmWave spectrum.
The third usage category is massive IoT with massive machine-type communications (mMTC). This usage category is all about sensing on a huge scale—and especially the colossal amounts of data it will produce. Massive IoT capabilities will enable the automation and connectivity of many use cases involving monitoring, like inventory management, logistics, and smart home applications. It’ll also support new kinds of intelligent wearables. The use of AI to interpret all that data will become commonplace.
With massive IoT, the digital footprint of your business is likely to grow dramatically. This usage category will rely on low-band and mid-band spectrum.