Faster Wifi Dependent on Faster Connectivity

Next generation wifi technology could save manufacturers millions in over the air (OTA) updates carrying costs while offering a more seamless experience for passengers.

LG Innotek has recently launched an automotive wifi module based on the next-generation wifi 6E (6th Generation Extendend) technology using 6 GHz bandwidth. The module employs a combination of communications chipset, a radio frequency (RF) circuit and other components to significantly boost data transmission speeds. The use of 6E modules in passenger cars means users can fluidly stream high definition video content or video games with augmented reality or virtual reality components, which is often only possible with frequent buffering thanks to the limitations of current modules.

While the applications and use cases are promising, there are also hurdles that could limit the technology’s effectiveness, at least for now. “In reality, it all depends on the speed of your cellular connectivity,” said Gartner analyst Pedro Pacheco. “The data comes from the cloud and that data is ensured by the cellular connection. If you were connected via 5G to the cloud, it would be higher speed and lower latency and then it would benefit from the 6E. Otherwise, say with 4G, you’ll have a bottleneck and 6E would not be that useful in that sense.”

He sees more focus from automakers put into enabling 5G connectivity for the car as opposed to in-car hotspots. “However, it’s all part of the same process,” Pacheco noted. “Once the vehicle itself has 5G, it makes more sense to have the wifi 6E for the hotspot within the car.” In the end, it’s about enabling higher bandwidth and a greater number of connections. With the current hotspot in the car, users can connect to a device streaming 4K videos but if you connect more devices, the more issues you’re going to have, while 6E provides greater freedom and connecting more devices.

As Pacheco pointed out, 6E also enables faster connection to the internet at the start, noting how quickly that connection can be established is important. “It’s not exactly game-changing, it’s a step forward in building all the blocks for a better in-car experience,” he said. “6E in the car but 4G to the cloud, it’s not so great – all the pieces need to fit together.”

The use of 6E technology also has major benefits for automakers looking to more extensively deploy OTA updates but are mindful of the massive expense incurred by the economics of transferring multi-gigabit files over cellular networks. “Automakers don’t like to do OTA over cellular because it’s expensive,” Pacheco. “When you get home and the car can connect with wifi from the parking spot, which doesn’t happen with everyone, the 6E allows faster download of data into the car.”

That’s a point of view shared by IDC analyst Matt Arcaro, who noted automakers are more than happy to use “free infrastructure” like wifi networks to save on costs, particularly for things like OTA updates. “If this saves the automaker a couple of dollars a week to deliver an OTA update from wifi cost free, that’s a big deal,” he said. “6E is a big progression and when you add in the additional spectrum, it’s important but it’s still just a local area connection.”

Back inside the cabin, Arcaro said in terms of changing the infotainment experience, it will be interesting to see the ways in which 6E delivers better performance and helping users online. “With 6E you can reduce the need for an access point and it allows for a more effective experience and a point of differentiation for that consumer,” he said. “A big part of it is to make the connection experience that much easier. I don’t need to point out that the smartphone to Bluetooth connection experience is still on the hit list for a lot of people.”

He noted consumers simply expect the Wifi experience to live up to the marketing and 6E removes the limitations that previous iterations of the service with agonizingly slow load times or connection issues, have served as pain points for passengers. “Your likelihood of having a good experience is increased,” Arcaro said. “With 6E, you’re creating a better experience overall, which is going to lead to greater customer satisfaction and usage.”

The technology is likely to find its way first into luxury vehicles and then a broader adoption will follow, Arcaro predicted, though availability and cost will play a decisive factor in how quickly automakers install 6E modules. “My guess is it will be relatively quick, based on how fast 6E is going to move,” he concluded.

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