Dr Peter Meissner, CEO, NGMN, writes that although we are on the cusp of one of the most exciting and engaging eras of connectivity with 5G and the capabilities it will bring, we must choose the best underlying technology to exploit them.

With the amount of enthusiasm within the industry for 5G, real use cases are starting to reveal themselves and preparations and predictions are beginning to make an impact. Intelligent, cooperative transport systems (C-ITS) are one of the most promising future applications that require the faster, low latency connectivity that 5G will enable. The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance recently published a White Paper, which compared the performance of technologies for Intelligent Transport Systems.

It concluded that Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) technology is vastly superior to IEEE 802.11p standards from a technical, economical and eco-system perspective and can easily satisfy basic yet critical safety applications. Despite strong indicators that this kind of technology is the way forward, we have recently seen a concerning act appearing from the European Commission.

The case for cellular technology is easy to back up, its technical advantages include superior communication range, latency and scalability. Not only this, but it has a natural evolution path to future advanced applications by updating current networks to 5G.

It is also important to take a wider view of the whole situation at hand and how the technology is set to impact these areas. For example, cellular technology not only covers safety features for vehicles, but also supports use cases for other traffic participants, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

The technology continues to be rigorously tested, and if everything goes to plan, it will be deployed by 2020.

Limiting C-ITS deployment to ITS-G5 (IEEE 802.11p) would make the European Union’s automotive industry less able to compete in today’s global and evolving technological marketplace. This places Europe at a technical and economic disadvantage compared with other regions of the world including China and the United States, where C-V2X is emerging as a strong technology candidate for C-ITS.

  • China’s strategy for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) designates LTE-V2X as the system to link vehicle to vehicle, RSU and person over the air. The Chinese government has officially published a spectrum plan in the 5.9 GHz band for LTE-V2X networks, which have a natural evolution path to 5G.
  • The US will take a technology-neutral approach, which opens the door for C-V2X.

Dr Peter Meissner

Even with the Commission’s commitment to technology neutrality, NGMN is becoming concerned about the progressing Delegated Act. Currently, it rules out C-V2X and favours a specific and single-purpose Wi-Fi based technology path, ITS-G5, which, despite its name, has no relationship to 5G technology and no evolutionary path towards compatibility with future 5G based C-ITS generations, as being planned in 5G Automotive Association, 5GCAR and other groups.

Rather than opting for a C-ITS in which ageing 802.11p radio technology would become the de facto standard for safety-related connectivity, Europe’s future C-ITS ecosystem deserves to be built on an optimal technology foundation, to remain sustainable and maximise future investment in 5G. This will make Europe’s roads safer and smarter.

NGMN strongly recommends adopting a forward-looking, technology-neutral approach in developing the EU’s C-ITS strategy. It calls upon European legislators to reconsider the current EC Delegated Act by including C-V2X on the list of potential technologies that European stakeholders may pursue and allow the market to decide which technology prevails. Given its importance, the Delegated Act adoption should not be rushed but conducted in transparent consultation with all stakeholders. The NGMN Board has written a letter to the European Commission on this topic, which is also available on the NGMN website.

If we are to succeed at least within Europe, then the right path must be chosen early, discussed openly and developed with the best technology for the task.

The author of this blog is Dr Peter Meissner, CEO, NGMN

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