Internet Enabled Consumer Devices

5G RedCap: The gateway to enhanced IoT and wearables

01 September 2023
RedCap is a solution designed to bring high bandwidth, low latency connectivity to wearables and internet of things devices. Source: Immiimagery/AdobeStock

As the digital world continues to evolve, 5G technology continues to amaze with unprecedented speeds and boundless connectivity. From powering our smartphones to paving the way for autonomous vehicles, the applications seem endless. Yet, as technology proliferates, so grows the demand for a network structure that accommodates devices not requiring 5G's full might but still seeking its architectural superiority.

Enter the scene, reduced capability (RedCap) 5G, also known as new radio (NR) Light. This solution is designed for devices such as wearables and hotspots, which prioritize low battery consumption, affordable cost and moderate bandwidth requirements. These gadgets, along with industrial wireless applications, internet of things (IoT) and video surveillance, stand to reap benefits from RedCap's optimized 5G experience, seamlessly marrying efficiency and affordability.

Demystifying RedCap

The term RedCap may be unfamiliar to some, largely because it represents a cutting-edge frontier in the 5G domain. At its core, the genius of RedCap 5G is its adaptability. By enabling devices with varying levels of 5G functionality, RedCap acts as a bridge between the comprehensive capabilities of standard 5G networks and the specific requirements of devices with limited processing capacities.

With RedCap, devices get the advantages of 5G's robust connection reliability, extended coverage, and enhanced battery life, all without bearing the weight of unnecessary 5G overheads.

Impact on 5G adoption: Expanding horizons

As we venture into the RedCap era, its implications are game-changing. While traditional 5G networks are built to support high-speed data transfer, real-time communication, and automation, they may overshadow devices or applications that don’t require the full extent of 5G capabilities.

This is where RedCap excels. By allowing devices with reduced 5G capabilities to coexist within the ecosystem, it allows for a more strategic alignment of technology to specific demands. The ultimate result could be fast-tracked 5G adoption in sectors that previously struggled with compatibility issues and an overabundance of connectivity options.

Highlights of RedCap include:

  • Broadened spectrum of devices: RedCap expands the 5G family. Once sidelined devices, like basic wearables or low-data IoT sensors, can now confidently join the 5G fold, ensuring a more inclusive digital landscape.
  • Optimized network resources: RedCap champions efficiency. By allowing devices to consume only the 5G resources they truly need, network performance improves. The result? A smoother, smarter user experience across the board.
  • Enhanced battery life: Longevity is at the heart of RedCap. Without the need to constantly tap into high-speed data streams, these devices enjoy extended battery life, marking a significant stride in device usability and sustainability.

RedCap progress and potential

As RedCap solidifies its presence in the telecommunication domain, major tech players are venturing into prototype development, with retailers eagerly awaiting the debut of RedCap-compatible devices. Particularly in sectors like industrial wireless and video surveillance, early implementations have garnered positive feedback, suggesting large-scale commercial adoption and success are on the horizon.

Recognizing the intricacies of this budding technology, Ericsson, an important name in the telecom world, has stepped forward with valuable insight. Their whitepaper, "RedCap: Expanding the 5G Device Ecosystem for Consumers and Industries" is a highly recommended read as it serves to seamlessly blend in-depth technical details with an overarching overview and caters to both industry veterans and newcomers.

Ericsson reveals that RedCap's design prowess is its real advantage. Boasting the ability to reduce modem complexity by an impressive 65% for mid-band devices and 50% for high-band ones, it exemplifies efficiency. This technological acumen finds wide-ranging applications, from factory automation to the immersive world of augmented reality. Moreover, its potential to rejuvenate existing long-term evolution (LTE) based networks underlines its significance in the quest for dominating global IoT coverage, with the market potential rocketing into the tens of billions.

In addition, battery longevity remains a RedCap cornerstone. Setting the bar high with aspirations of a 15-year lifespan, it stands out from contemporaries like ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). In fact, many real-world applications have observed RedCap devices consistently outlasting these ambitious benchmarks. Innovations such as the extended discontinuous reception (eDRX) only add to its allure, promising the potential of extending battery life by up to 80 times under optimal conditions.

In summary, Ericsson envisions a future where sophistication and cost-efficiency coexist. This future is not confined to device refinement; it extends to its network integration. RedCap's seamless coexistence within shared cellular frameworks, bolstered by strategies like optimized signaling overhead, promises harmonious interactions with traditional devices. Moreover, performance evaluations have consistently indicated that even as the density of RedCap devices grows, non-RedCap users' experience, especially in terms of eMBB user throughput, remains unaffected and robust.

Wearables in healthcare and the audio market may soon be able to connect to 5G networks via RedCap technology. Source: Alfazet Chronicles/AdobeStock Wearables in healthcare and the audio market may soon be able to connect to 5G networks via RedCap technology. Source: Alfazet Chronicles/AdobeStock

RedCap in action: Real-world implications

RedCap is more than just a tool; it's a catalyst. It is redefining industry standards and ushering in real-world efficiencies and applications.

Wearables and personal tech: Consider a smartwatch that can seamlessly interact with your smart home, vehicle, and even your healthcare provider. Think of fitness trackers that not only monitor heart rates but also provide real-time air quality information or hydration levels, all while ensuring weeks of battery life.

Manufacturing and industrial automation: RedCap is a major driver in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing floors have machines equipped with sensors that can predict maintenance needs, thereby reducing downtime. RedCap aids wireless communication between these machines, allowing for real-time analytics and decision-making. Processes that took hours now happen in seconds.

Smart cities and IoT: Urban environments are becoming increasingly connected. RedCap facilitates low-data sensors in streetlights that adjust to natural lighting conditions, traffic systems that adapt in real-time to congestion, or public transport systems that update routes based on real-time demand and conditions.

Video surveillance and security: Security systems are evolving from passive recording devices to proactive safety mechanisms. Cameras equipped with RedCap technology can now send ultra-HD feeds over a 5G network, making real-time monitoring effective. In crowded events, facial recognition can help locate missing persons. In border controls, real-time feeds can assist authorities in identifying and responding to threats faster.

Healthcare: Consider rural areas where specialized medical expertise is scarce. With RedCap-enabled devices, real-time remote surgeries are no longer a dream but a feasible reality. Wearable health monitors can relay patient data continuously to healthcare providers, ensuring early diagnosis and intervention for critical conditions.

Transportation and logistics: Picture a scenario where delivery trucks reroute themselves based on real-time traffic data and weather conditions, ensuring on-time deliveries. Efficient fleet management, real-time cargo tracking and dynamic route optimization are just the tip of the iceberg. RedCap introduces capabilities for vehicles to communicate with each other, enabling safer and more efficient road systems.


The world of 5G has been thrown open, ensuring that every device, regardless of its complexity, has a place in this intricate tapestry of connectivity. For the vanguards of technology, this is a golden era. With diverse devices from across the spectrum seamlessly communicating on one platform, the vision of a truly interconnected world is turning into reality.

RedCap 5G stands as a testament to the fluidity and dynamism of technological advancements, epitomizing the ethos of tailored connectivity. By amplifying the reach and potential of 5G across sectors, its impact is transformative. As we embrace this new era, the horizon promises a future that's more efficient, versatile and intricately connected.

About the author

Emily Main holds a J.D. in Compliance Law and a BS in Telecommunications. With extensive experience in 5G and digital networking, Main has contributed to numerous publications and conferences, exploring the technical challenges, innovations, trends and applications of 5G technologies and related networking systems. Passionate about RF communications and networking, she is dedicated to sharing the latest advances in the field with a professional engineering audience through engaging and informative articles.

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