DSRC the ‘Here-And-Now’ of V2V Solution

5G must play second fiddle to a wi-fi V2V solution currently the best option to get vehicle communications for driverless cars up and running.

That’s the view of Netherlands-based specialist Ton Brand who boasts senior executive experience working for both cellular and wi-fi related organizations. Brand, formerly with the GSMA and the Wireless Broadband Alliance, says the European Union’s preference for wi-fi based DSRC is simple: “It’s the cheapest option.”

Brand explained his how career influences’ inform his opinion, saying: “I have worked on both sides, the cellular industry and the wi-fi industry, and there has always been the debate from the former to the latter than cellular is not complimentary to the wi-fi and that cellular technology is much better, etc., etc.

“The reality is they can perfectly well work together. That is not what a certain part of the industry wants to hear and certainly the mobile operators don’t because they want to control the chain from beginning to end.”


He admitted that regulatory and economic politics will have a bearing on which and when the choice will be made over the competing technologies. Brand said: “I think that’s where, if you look at V2V type communication [with 5G], it’s about politics and not a good business case. If it was a business case, I could accept it but it’s not because the real business case veers away from cellular technology at the moment. At this time, it is much cheaper to put wi-fi into a car rather than putting in 5G that isn’t currently available anyway.”

Brand said the value-for-money aspect between the technology also extends to the embedded hardware. He explained: “Wi-fi chipsets are much cheaper when 5G chipsets for V2V communication don’t exist. Even more than this, the standard has to be agreed upon so that makes wi-fi the only technology that is available for use in most areas at this moment in time.”

Yet, none of this means 5G is dead and buried as a mission critical automotive tool, Brand stressed. “Going forward, if you’re thinking of doing V2V and also V2I with the same technology, that might be a different debate. I am convinced that 5G, at a later date, will have benefits over and beyond the wi-fi alternative. The wi-fi alternative will only work in V2V and will not be able to handle V2I because the infrastructure doesn’t exist – the connected roadside beacons aren’t there yet. Even if they were, with wi-fi you would need such a huge density of beacons that would make it economically unrealistic. For 5G that particular table may turn at that given moment in time. We know that real wide-scale deployments of 5G won’t begin until 2025 so that’s still a long way off.”

Aiding transition

In fact, Brand believes wi-fi technology could help the eventual transition of 5G into mission critical roles for the autonomous vehicle. He explained: “You can still continue with wi-fi in DSRC technology and then use 5G for the V2I and your normal communications, so these can work hand-in-hand. In this way, that which LiDAR and radar are doing right now could be replaced by wi-fi DSRC in all V2V communication roles.”

However, he stressed that politicized cellular lobbyists must be careful they don’t rock the vehicle communications boat to the point of seeing it capsize. He said: “The only ‘but’ in this is that I read that some in the cellular community believe 5G could handle V2V in unlicensed spectrums because that’s the difference, 5G in licensed spectrum and wi-fi is unlicensed spectrum. If they try to get 5G up and running in unlicensed spectrum, a whole new bun-fight will happen. The cellular industry has tried this time and time again and has, every time, failed.”

This could bring in highly restrictive regulation of the industry to the detriment of innovation. However, Brand concluded a clear regulatory path is being trod that could become the standard, saying: “I think Europe has mapped this out now and while in the US the jury is still out, my best guess right now is that the US will follow Europe in this one.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


  1. Avatar Zoran Kehler 1st July 2019 @ 5:22 pm

    V2V is not about politics: it is about safety, ultimately, about a choice which will enable reliable, always-on connectivity between vehicles and other objects. It is also about liability, and ability to build networks. leave V2V and V2I to WiFi providers, and they will (a) never be built, (b) will not be possible to adhere to standards, (c) will be unsafe, (d) will not support E2E identity/integrity/privacy. I can continue.

    WiFi operators do not have the financial, legal or organization heft to build network that would guarantee that one could cross a large country (or Europe, for that matter) end-to-end and stay reliably connected. This has been proven many times over.

    Then again, MNOs will be tempted to bring V2X WiFi under their umbrella.

    • Avatar Ton Brand 2nd July 2019 @ 4:39 pm

      Hi Zoran, I don’t think I was implying that WiFi operators would build a network for V2V communication. The benefit of using wifi (or rather 802.11p) is that car manufacturer would be able to implement the technology without being dependent of an operator. In the case of 5G, the car OEM would definitely have to rely on an operator network as it would be using licensed spectrum. Note: I am referring to V2V. V2X is a whole different ballgame.

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