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5G is nigh. The next generation cellular network after 4G and LTE Advanced, will soon be available. There are many reasons why the network will be pivotal for automotive applications. But there are also great concerns.

Auto Futures talked with analysts and leaders in the industry.

5G is important for greater capacity, lower latency and improved coverage. That’s according to Roger C. Lanctot, director of Automotive Connected Mobility at Strategy Analytics. He adds that for the automotive industry the game changer is the introduction of the PC5 air interface which enables direct device-to-device communications which introduced the ability of 5G (or C-V2X/LTE) equipped cars to communicate to each other. In the future cars with 5G can communicate with mobile devices and infrastructure.

“The introduction of 5G will also enable network slicing in the form of portions of the network dedicated to particular applications. The combination of direct inter-vehicle communications and low latency enables safety-related collision avoidance applications,” says Lanctot.

“In the future, the 5G network will enable self-driving cars to make real-time decisions based on information not only from car sensors and cameras but from smart city infrastructure, connected vehicles and other external sources. 5G data enables vehicles to ‘see’ what is around corners and what’s up ahead,” says Chris Penrose, president of IoT at AT&T.

“5G is a big buzzword and it’s great for marketing. But you have to read the fine print.”

Wireless carriers are trying to make the process easier for automakers. In 2019, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, AT&T and Vodafone announced that they will be working together to simplify the 5G process for automotive for autonomous vehicles, V2X, in-vehicle entertainment, connect cars features and smart cities.

Continental and Vodafone showed their digital safety shield for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. When the system detects a possible collision path, it issues a warning. The technology was tested at Vodafone’s 5G Mobility Lab in Aldenhoven, Germany.

In the first phases of 5G, some of the features that the network will provide will be real-time traffic alerts, high-speed internet access, streaming entertainment videos, gaming and 4K video. Then, down the road, real-time local data updates, lane merging data, sensor/camera data sharing, platooning and even remote driving, says Anna Buettner, principal analyst, automotive at IHS Markit.

Buettner predicts that, at first, 5G V2X will be deployed in luxury vehicles and then trickle down to mainstream vehicles.

“What is very important when safety and mission-critical functions are being sent over a wireless network is that the cybersecurity has to be at a much higher level. If, for example, the 5G signal is hacked and it sends out signals to other cars that a car ahead is braking or that the light is changing when it is not that is a very serious problem,” says Buettner.

Some automakers are planning to introduce vehicles with as many as three or four wireless modules on board adds Lanctot, who believes the greatest weakness of 5G is the cost.

The open 5G standards are being set by the 3GPP, the organization that sets the standards for mobile deployment worldwide, says Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas.

In the U.S., he says,  all the national carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are planning 5G with deployment nationwide by 2020. In 2019, there will be 25 operators with 5G. Next year an additional 25 to 30 operators are expected. And, by the end of 2023, global 5G connections are expected to reach 1.3 billion.

“5G is about the convergence of low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum as well as licensed, shared, and unlicensed spectrum. In tests and trials, the mmWave (high-band millimetre wave) spectrum is showing to be very proficient,” says Pearson.

One operator in the Americas region reported that its trials support gigabit speeds with only a millisecond latency. The operator highlighted that with only 100 MHz of mmWave spectrum on a macro-cellular site, they saw speeds of 500 Mbps at 200 feet and less than 100 Mbps at distances of 2,000-2,500 feet, reports Pearson.

Although carriers don’t report their speeds, there have been claims of 5G being up to 100x faster than 4G and LTE. A TCU engineer who is familiar with the industry, told Auto Futures the mmWave cell sites that are small in size will have a range of 300 metres which will he thinks will be difficult to deploy. The units could be installed on street lights and utility poles but still will take a long time to be fully deployed.

“The key ingredients for 5G commercial access are more low- mid- and high- licensed spectrum–and network density. For network density there needs to be streamlining of the cell site process at all levels of government,” suggests Pearson.

Both Lanctot and Buettner concur that the first 5G deployments will be in China where it is easier for government approvals. South Korea and Japan are small therefore they are more likely to be able to bring in 5G, says Buettner who notes that consumer groups are protesting more cell sites in their neighbourhoods which could delay deployment.

“5G is a big buzzword and it’s great for marketing. But you have to read the fine print. 5G will blow your socks off for speed and low latency. It makes massive IoT possible – when and where it works,” warns Buettner.

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