Mobile industry pushes 5G as EU debates Wi-Fi standard for connected cars

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The mobile industry and some governments are pushing the European Commission to reject proposals that would enshrine Wi-Fi as the industry standard for connected cars.

The EU believes connected cars will make roads safer and vehicles more efficient but is concerned about the lack of cooperation within the industry.

It hopes that by creating a series of approved technical specifications for a particular technology will inspire confidence among consumers, manufacturers and other stakeholders such as insurance companies, encouraging connected car adoption.

EU connected cars

However, the move to approve the Wi-Fi-based ‘ITS-G5’ standard ahead of the 5G-based ‘C-V2X’ is controversial. The EU’s view is that Wi-Fi is more readily available and could be used to improve road safety more rapidly than 5G, which will take time to rollout across member states.

Mobile operators, equipment manufacturers and car makers are split between the two technologies, as are individual nations. Many fear that a move to approve Wi-Fi ahead of 5G will lead to compatibility issues in the future and want a technologically neutral approach.

Volkswagen, Renault and NXP are among the supporters of ITS-G5, claiming it is better for time-critical communications such as crash avoidance and object navigation, while Ford, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung are among those who back C-V2X. They argue that C-V2X supports a wider range of applications and is futureproof.

The debate is significant because the market for connected car technology and services is expected to be worth billions of pounds a year. Indeed, it was one the most promising applications for 5G and the US and China is expected to back cellular over Wi-Fi.

Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, has reportedly written to the European Parliament to argue that Wi-Fi is old technology that won’t make roads any safer.

“This Wi-Fi standard was developed over a decade ago for the ITS-G5 framework. Despite being ready for many years, it has seen very little commercial deployment so far,” he is quoted as saying.

The proposals have already been rejected by a committee of EU lawmakers and will be voted on in European parliament next week.