As mobile operators speed towards 5G, automotive companies are in a race of their own. Autonomous and connected vehicle initiatives have become priorities for established and emerging players alike – Uber, Waymo, Volvo, Tesla, GM, Ford, BMW – the list goes on.
Successful connected and autonomous-vehicle strategies will require bulletproof wireless connectivity. Stakeholders in this expanding industry have stars (and dollar signs) in their eyes when they dream about where 5G and edge computing can take them. After all, the mobile industry has promised the world, from high bandwidth and low latency to eventual ubiquity. Yes, next-generation networks will be capable of supporting evolving automotive connectivity needs. But these likely won’t interoperate, and that’s a major hurdle that stands in the way of consistent customer experiences.
If the automotive industry wants to ensure the success of a critical component of its future business, it should consider taking a much larger role in how the networks that support them are built and managed. In fact, if they work with their operator partners to build a global MVNO from the ground up, they will have better control over the process and business outcomes.
Understanding what automotive needs from mobile to accelerate
There’s a reason all eyes are on the role of 5G and the edge when it comes to the future of vehicle connectivity. As more connected and autonomous cars hit the streets, they will be armed with dozens of camera-produced feeds that need real-time processing to share critical information with other vehicles and drive autonomously. This isn’t a “nice to have” – if these networks don’t work, lives are in danger.
In an environment where the situation changes moment to moment, constant and consistent communications is integral. Near real-time data exchange is important. In other words, there is no time for video and spatial sensor data to be transmitted via the network core and back out to vehicles. Also, it would be terribly inefficient. Instead, the traffic must be bridged at the network edge from one car to the next location and be connected through neighboring stations at radio aggregation points.
Building a purpose-built automotive network, slice by slice
Network slicing will play a major role in how the automotive industry secures the connectivity needed to support future ambitions. The ability to specify exactly the type and amount of connectivity needed across operators is the first step toward creating a purpose-built network that can support a thriving automotive MVNO initiative.
Then there’s the necessary complementary edge computing functionality. If we want vehicles to talk to each other, they’ll need an edge cloud that’s customised with apps related specifically to the unique needs of the automotive industry.
5G Automotive Association (5GAA) is promoting edge computing’s role in advancing automotive communications. The group currently envisions a universal edge cloud serving vehicles, devices, transportation infrastructure and more. But in reality, the current direction will potentially result in various devices connected to disparate edge clouds operated by a range of providers.
That’s a problem. There’s currently some fogginess as it relates to how 5G slices and edge networks will become interoperable so that they can actually deliver on their promises. In other words, while the connectivity may be available, vehicles moving between networks operated by different providers won’t necessarily have access to a consistent set of services or performance. We already see auto manufacturers headed down this path as they strike exclusive deals with operators to power connectivity.
Linking all edge clouds and slices together to form a unified, globally available mesh 5G network that is operated by the automotive industry is the better approach. By banding together, stakeholders can pool resources, leverage size and ensure evolving connectivity needs are always met.
Making a global automotive MVNO
Luckily, to get into the business of mobile, automotive manufacturers don’t need to become network experts overnight. They can partner with operators to create the specs and, most importantly, offer incentive for global interoperability. Not only will this help support future features and capabilities, but auto manufacturers will be in the best position to upsell buyers on additional upgrade services.
Watching your favourite car maker or service morph into a new wireless provider is probably as “uncarrier” as it gets. It also just makes sense. A bevy of one-off deals won’t take the automotive industry where it needs to go next. But a global MVNO will provide the true ticket to ride.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their IoT use-cases? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.