The European Commission has ruled in favour of WiFi over 5G networks, meaning the technology will become the standard platform for vehicle communication.
EU lawmakers want to set benchmarks for internet-connected cars, a market that could generate billions of euros in revenues for automakers, telecoms operators and equipment makers, according to analysts.
The Commission believes that WiFi is preferable to 5G services as it is currently readily available and could, therefore, offer an instant boost to road safety. The move favours carmakers such as Volkswagen (VW), Renault and Toyota, who currently use the technology in their connected vehicle services.
Those backing WiFi argue that the industry needs clarity on what systems to use as soon as possible and that it is currently the only proven technology. The region’s second largest truck maker, Sweden’s Volvo Group, said the draft legislation still leaves room to embrace 5G technology in the future.
Critics have said a requirement that new technologies be modified to be compatible with older technology is unrealistic and would put a brake on innovation.
5G backers include companies such as Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung.
The fifth-generation, or 5G, standard hooks up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, with a wider range of applications in areas such as entertainment, traffic data and general navigation.
Wi-Fi technology primarily connects cars to other cars.
‘We are convinced that mandating WiFi technology will cause significant delays to the European rollout of car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication,’ BMW CEO Harald Krueger and Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges said in a joint letter to Germany’s Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.
Lobbying group and 5G technology supporter 5GAA said the text currently proposed by the Commission fails to ensure a level playing field between existing technologies by imposing discriminatory interoperability and compatibility requirements against newer technologies.
‘With technology moving fast, we believe it is of essence that all new rules are future-proof, innovation-oriented to maximise C-ITS safety benefits,’ the group said in a position paper. ‘Currently, the Delegated Regulation fails this test, as it mandates the old Wi-Fi standard 802.11p and it excludes other mature technologies, such as Cellular-Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X), based today on LTE and tomorrow on 5G.’
‘In doing so, it also effectively harms the development of 5G technology in the EU, despite the rising global market competition, and it directly contradicts the goals set out in the European Commission “5G Action Plan” and “Digital Single Market Strategy”.’
The telecoms industry, which is putting its hopes in 5G applications to recoup its investments, was similarly critical. ‘Europe cannot mandate only one technology for connected driving. Member states can now correct this by bringing 4G and 5G back into the picture: global competitiveness and safety are at stake,’ said Lise Fuhr, director general of telecoms lobbying group ETNO.
The plan now has to go before the European Council, where opponents would require a blocking majority to overturn the proposal. There are no details yet on when the Council will make a decision.