5G Verses DSRC Bun Fight Has Long Way To Go

Earlier this month the European Parliament ratified draft rules by the bloc’s executive body, the European Commission to endorse WiFi-based communications standards between connected vehicles.

While the technology is pushed by powerhouses like Volkswagen, Toyota, General Motors and Volvo, there are other automakers, BMW among them, who have urged EU legislators to scrap the rules. They argue against WiFi, saying adopting this standard would force them to make additional investments in a technology that offers poorer performance than cellular-based technology and 5G networks.

From automakers’ perspectives cellular connectivity adds an additional cost to ownership of the car, which must be covered by the automaker, Sam Barker, senior analyst at Juniper Research, told TU-Automotive. “This issue is not present with WiFi-based connectivity as there is no recurring monthly fee,” he said. “However, it must be stated that the capabilities of 5G far exceed that of wireless technologies based on Wi-Fi based standards.”

He noted 5G network launches have already begun, with the first 5G-enabled vehicle models anticipated to be launched next year and, regardless of the standards, carmakers will include 5G for in-vehicle entertainment standards. “Whether 5G becomes the standard for future services is solely down to the standards bodies, however automotive OEMs will continue lobby for the ‘technology neutral’ approach,” Barker explained. “We can expect the debate to continue, however, over the next three years we anticipate increasing support for cellular connectivity.”

He noted operators would be well aware of the expected data increases that 5G connections will bring and back haul infrastructure will be designed to handle this, arguing data abuse should not be a concern for operators over the next few years. “The only issue of cellular connections is the recurring monthly cost of connections,” Barker said. Automotive OEMs are keen to implement 5G in vehicles at the earliest convenience, as long as they can develop solutions to cover the recurring monthly cost of a cellular connection.”

Barker noted additionally, development of WiFi based solutions requires minimal investment and automakers are likely to continue tracking both technologies and implement radios to cover both wireless standards in the future. “This assumes that cellular connections will eventually become the primary underlying connection for most services,” he said.

Barker also pointed out that, on a global level, there are differences between attitudes towards the standards. “Europe is now heading towards a neutral approach, whereas the US has previously leaned towards WiFi based standards,” he said. “In the future, we anticipated all regions to gravitate towards cellular connections, starting with 5G, as price per connection begins to fall and coverage across road networks increases.”

However, some believe the 5G lobby is driven mainly in the interests of greater profits rather than finding an automotive standard robust system: see 5G Extracts More Revenue From Consumers Than DSRC. David Price, innovation manager at Idiada UK, said WiFi offers a tried and trusted technology that is readily available today and also reduces potential effort on validation tasks. “There is no need to tie into a cellular contract, therefore, giving the OEM more chance to own and manage the data through the life of the vehicle,” Price explained.

He bets the debate will last at least until 2022, when the C-ITS and next EuroNCAP kicks in and when 5G should be more available. “The first technology to market often becomes the de facto standard, even if future technologies are better in some ways,” he said. “The race is to be first, not necessarily best.”

Price said the cellular mobile network operators (MNOs) have a lot to lose if the new vehicle market chooses not to use cellular. “They will potentially lose revenue from low and mid-priced vehicles which would only fit WiFi technology,” he said. “Vehicle manufacturers who supply the same vehicle to multiple countries don’t want to have to fit different technologies in different market – it increases both development and manufacturing costs.”

When it comes to 5G, Price pointed out that data ownership is a concern and there is “a bit of a fight” about who will own the data that is generated. Price noted cyber-security is also a concern, because if all of the vehicle and driver information is in one system, there is more chance of it being compromised. Is the vehicle next to you in the traffic jam trying to steal your data because it’s talking to your car? “There are also potential concerns about network latency for future time-critical functions, although these are unlikely to be rolled out widely in the first year or two,” Price said.

He explained that going forward, the lack of a clear technology standard is going to have an impact automakers and developers of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and other connected car components. “As I’ve said before, it costs more in development to engineer two solutions into each vehicle, he noted. “However, there are always technology choices in lots of vehicle systems, so the OEM industry is used to dealing with them.”

For Price, it’s more of a problem is the infrastructure side, who said road builders are not used to managing multiple technology choices in the same way. “How do cities and highways choose what to fit on the road network?” he asked. “They typically evolve technology much more slowly than vehicle OEMs.”

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

One comment

  1. Avatar Ton Brand 29th May 2019 @ 4:02 pm

    A lot of confusing, and event also, arguments are being made here.
    First of all, the EC recommendation focuses on Vehicle-to-Vehicle communications, so all arguments regarding additional costs for backhaul and problems on the infrastructure side are kind of mute. Second, the prediction that 5G is better than Wi-Fi is based on old assumptions, Wi-Fi6 can provide similar speeds, latency, etc. Also Wi-Fi chipsets will be much cheaper than the initial pricing of 5G chipsets.
    That said, I can imagine that OEMs would want to use 5G for collecting car data, voice communications, eCall type of applications etc., but the reality is that wide spread usage of 5G is light years away and that 4G will probably prevail for a long time…

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