What do eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC mean in 5G?

eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC are terminologies that are frequently used in the context of 5G New Radio (NR) networks. These terminologies are often expressed through a triangle that represents the key building blocks for specifying requirements for 5G networks.

eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband), mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication) and uRLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication) are three essential use case classes for 5G that help establish the requirements that 5G networks must fulfil to enable current and future use cases in mobile telecoms.

What do the terms eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC mean?
What do the terms eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC mean?

What is the role of eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC in 5G networks?

eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC establish the building blocks for 5G networks to help define requirements for 5G to deliver high-speed mobile broadband (over 10 Gbps), mass deployment of low-powered IoT devices (1 million devices per km2) and extremely reliable low-latency communication (99.99% reliable).

5G networks are not just about ultra-fast mobile broadband services, but they address various types of use cases due to the flexibility that the 5G New Radio technology offers. 5G networks can support millimetre frequencies (over 6 GHz) as well as sub 1 GHz bands, and they can work with and without the existing 4G LTE networks. They are able to use these different network characteristics to facilitate use cases that have completely different requirements. For example, by supporting sub 1 GHz frequencies, 5G networks can address use cases where low bit rates are required, and the devices are low-powered. On the other extreme, by supporting over 6 GHz frequency bands, 5G can offer solutions for fixed wireless scenarios where devices have a higher power consumption but the resulting data rates are extremely high, and the latencies are ultra-low.

What use cases can eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC support?

5G New Radio mobile networks are the evolution of 4G LTE, LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro networks. They are designed to support new enterprise-level use cases whilst still supporting the everyday use cases that 4G, 3G and 2G networks already support today. The pre-5G networks such as 2G GSM, 3G UMTS and 4G LTE employ more of a “one size fits all” approach where the same network can support different use cases. The 2G, 3G, and 4G networks offer mobile data, voice calls, and text messaging services. They utilise the necessary network capabilities based on what the customer is trying to do. Depending on customer needs, e.g. high-speed data requirements, the network may use flexible bandwidth through carrier aggregation (in 4G) to accommodate higher data rates. All that will still work in 5G for the use cases that we know today, but for futuristic use cases with billions of connected devices, one size will not fit all customer needs. And that is where eMBB, uRLLC and mMTC play a key role in enabling 5G to cover a wide range of use case types. These three use case categories cover the combined industry needs for the existing and future use cases that mobile networks must support. Below is a quick summary of the communication needs for fulfilling the industry needs that eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC help address.

#Technology/communication needExample use case
1High-data rateswatching an HD video
2Low-data ratessending a text message on WhatsApp
3Highly reliable connection, no matter what data rates are availableTraffic lights
4Very low latenciesSelf-driving cars where you can’t afford any delays
5Very little power consumption so that the battery can last for years instead of daysIoT devices like sensors and actuators
6Works with standard hardware and software to cost-effectively support billions of devicesLow-cost IoT devices, e.g. sensors

What is eMBB – Enhanced Mobile Broadband?

eMBB stands for Enhanced Mobile Broadband or Extreme Mobile Broadband, and it is a 5G use case class that sets a target for 5G to deliver peak download speeds of over 10 Gbps which is considerably higher than the peak download speed of 3 Gbps that 4G LTE Advanced Pro can deliver.

For the majority of the potential customers of 5G, the super-fast mobile broadband speeds are what we all naturally assume. So, this is an obvious use case that we can relate to even today. We all know how important it is for us to have high-speed broadband services, and many of us have already explored the capabilities of 4G LTE networks as home broadband. However, 5G takes mobile broadband speeds to a whole new level, and we can expect peak speeds of over 10 Gbps. But the peak speeds are virtually theoretical as they are the absolute maximum that a network can generate in ideal conditions. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, we have to deal with the path loss that a mobile signal has to endure (signal fading), and we also share the network with many other people, which reduces the speed an individual gets. Therefore, the real-life data rates with 5G are considerably lower than the 10 Gbps, which you can learn more about in our dedicated post on average 5G speeds. The requirement for eMBB is high data rates which 5G networks can offer in a standalone capacity or by working together with 4G LTE networks.

What is uRLLC – Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication?

uRLLC stands for Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication and is a use case class that defines the minimum requirement for 5G networks to offer communication with high reliability (99.99%), extremely low latencies (below one millisecond) and support for low data rates (bps or kbps).

uRLLC or ultra-reliable low latency communication is when highly reliable connectivity (99.99% reliable) is required to offer extremely low latencies of one millisecond or below. For uRLLC, the high data rates that 5G networks are generally known for are not required but instead, the focus is on the reliability and the quickness of the connection at low data rates. 5G networks can operate at various frequency levels, including high, mid and low-frequency bands. Higher frequencies offer better overall performance, including higher data rates and lower latencies. So if we take the self-driving vehicle as an example use case, the link between the vehicle and the network requires real-time communication, which means the latencies must be very low. 5G NR can enable latencies of 1 millisecond or below to support use cases like self-driving cars, mission-critical applications, industrial automation and many others.

What is mMTC – Massive Machine-Type Communication?

mMTC stands for Massive Machine Type Communication, which in 5G networks is a use case class that defines the minimum requirement for 5G to support 1 million low powered, low cost, low-complexity devices per square kilometre with a battery life of up to ten years.  

Massive Machine Type Communication is the use case category that requires the network to support the mass deployment of billions of low-cost, low-powered devices. This is one of the most important use-case categories required as a foundation for the digitisation of many industries through cellular IoT technologies. Using common sense, the deployment of billions of devices requires that the devices are low-powered with a battery life of up to ten (10) years and that the complexity level is very low to keep the costs down. The mMTC requirement for 5G can support use cases like home automation, including sensors and actuators, and machine monitoring systems that require low data rates. One simple example is smart metres that do not require real-time communication, so a few seconds delay is not an issue, and they transmit text-based data at low data rates.

Conclusion

eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband), mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication) and uRLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication) are three use case categories or classes that 5G New Radio (NR) networks enable. eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC represent the various communication capabilities needed to bring to life the use cases that demand high-speed data, mass deployment of connected devices, and highly reliable communication with low latencies.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need extra support, especially when preparing for a new job, studying a new topic, or buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy, which explains the network nodes, e.g., BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience, which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if you work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on the product overview and product roadmap.

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