Failure to back C-V2X will cost Europe, warn Vodafone, Ericsson and BMW
Vodafone, Ericsson, and BMW have warned the European Commission (EC) its current stance on vehicular communications, which precludes 5G technologies in favour of a single purpose Wi-Fi variant, will throw the region way off track in terms of digital infrastructure and economic development.
In a joint statement, the trio noted the lack of progress so far for Wi-Fi based technologies in smart transport networks, except for research and pilot projects. By contrast, the the telecoms and automotive industries in Europe have combined to produce a number of road tests of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technologies, which have showed promise, they said.
Vodafone, Ericsson, and BMW said the EC’s current line on communications for intelligent transport systems (ITS), which proposes a single-purpose Wi-Fi technology, known as ITS-G5, instead of a technology-neutral approach, is wrong-headed and potentially damaging for the region, and will put it behind China and the US, notably.
The group said the ITS-G5 policy, being developed by the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport under the ITS Directive, will slow adoption of digital technologies in the automotive sector and broader mobility market and deter investment in 5G networks. The group raised five objections, in all.
“Firstly, by backing the use of Wi-Fi alone appears to run counter to trends in China and the US, where cellular technology is emerging as a strong candidate for connecting vehicles. This could put the EU at a disadvantage,” said the group, in a statement signed off by Vodafone Group Joakim Reiter, Vodafone’s director of external affairs, Ulf Pehrsson, Ericsson’s vice president of industry relations, and Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics at BMW.
European car manufacturers would be required to incorporate different technologies for export and could be isolated from global distribution and innovation efforts, they warned.
The trio went on: “Secondly, by excluding cellular technologies from short-range, the transportation and telecommunication industries have much less incentive to invest in 5G along roads. This would stunt the deployment of 5G connectivity infrastructure in Europe, and run counter to the objectives of the Commission’s own 5G action plan to promote early deployment of 5G along transport routes.”
The companies noted the significant investments already in cellular technologies by companies in Europe and around the world. “There are C-V2X technology trials in Germany, France, Spain, United Kingdom, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States, and global commercial launch is expected by 2020,” they said.
Any move by the EC to effectively ban cellular technologies in cars would also impact its strategy to reduce road accidents, on the grounds vehicles would not be able to communicate with road users’ mobile phones, as they would with C-V2X technology. “C-V2X offers a native solution that could be used on a variety of devices, including smartphones, which would… realise the safety benefits of intelligent transport systems.”
Lastly, the three companies said C-V2X is part of the 5G roadmap anyway. “This ensures a sustainable technology evolution path. In contrast, Wi-Fi is a single-purpose technology, demanding significant investments for its deployment and for continuous maintenance.”
The EC’s Directorate-General Connect has recently launched a public consultation on a future recommendation on connected automated driving – including guidance on the use of pioneer spectrum for 5G connectivity for large scale testing. But its Delegated Act is already being reviewed, before being scrutinised by European Parliament and the European Council.
“We are concerned that we are headed for a Delegated Act that would effectively lock the automotive ecosystem into old Wi-Fi technology… We urge European policymakers to adopt a technology neutral approach towards connected car legislation,” the group said.
They made the case for cellular connectivity, as a means to support short-range and long-range communications, as well as ad-hoc vehicle communication in situations with no cellular coverage.
“It’s not surprising that organisations that have invested in Wi-Fi technology since 2010 would prefer that cellular technologies take a back seat so they can protect their investment. However, it would be a shame if the vested interests of the few prevented new technologies emerging which would benefit the many,” they said.