Momentum continues to build behind the 3GPP-based C-V2X standard for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-environment networking, a key building block for intelligent transport systems (ITS). Recent months have seen a surge of announcements as several of the largest players from the telecom industry are lining up to back C-V2X, and automotive manufacturer commitment continues to increase.
At MWC 2018 in Barcelona, the 5G Automotive Association brought together Audi, Ford, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and Qualcomm to show their commitment to the standard and to present a string of announcements around use cases, chipsets and integration into equipment (in Huawei’s case, in prototype automotive units and roadside equipment). Notably, Huawei highlighted China’s enthusiasm for the standard, a trend presented in more detail at the 5GAA general assembly in Shanghai during November 2017. This is a huge boost for C-V2X given China’s size and scale.
Also at MWC, Qualcomm’s 9150 CV2X chipset was used in demonstrations by ZTE, which announced C-V2X modules and test terminals, and by Rohde & Schwarz, which showed off its C-V2X signaling test solutions. This capability is an absolute necessity for interoperability between different vendors’ products, to enable an independent certification regime for devices and to prove that C-V2X can meet the extremely tight latency requirements to allow for deployment in safety-related direct vehicle-to-vehicle deployments.
Concurrently, Austrian traffic control equipment manufacturer Swarco said that its U.S. subsidiary McCain would be presenting roadside equipment based on the Qualcomm C-V2X chipset. This is a tentative yet important step in establishing C-V2X within roadside and broader city infrastructure.
It’s been a busy few months for C-V2X. At CES, Ford announced that it would be working with Qualcomm to ensure that the standard would be implemented in both vehicles and roadside equipment. In tandem, Ford issued a joint statement with bicycle manufacturer Trek and software vendor Tome that it would be working to integrate C-V2X into the artificial intelligence-based “B2V” bike safety system.
CES also saw the formation of the Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow (ConVeX) consortium to carry out field tests of technology based on C-V2X. This has widespread involvement from Audi, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Swarco Traffic Systems and the University of Kaiserslautern while being partly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).
In parallel more field trial consortia were announced, including one in Japan with the participation of NTT DoCoMo, Ericsson, Nissan, OKI, Continental and Qualcomm. Another field trial consortium, the “Towards 5G connected car partnership,” involving Orange and the automotive manufacturing group PSA alongside Ericsson, was launched at the same time; Qualcomm joined at the time of MWC.
But the proponents of rival DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications), notably NXP and Siemens but also GM and Toyota, remain determined. DSRC is not yet ready to join the graveyard of technologies whose moment came and went. There has been a slew of white papers, research reports and news articles claiming that the “mature” DSRC is technologically superior, cheaper to implement, ready now and on the point of being mandated by the U.S. government. There is a list of DSRC pilots doing the rounds too, seeking to demonstrate that unlike C-V2X, the technology is already here.
Most of these are highly contestable, not least the claim that DSRC is about to become a regulatory requirement in the U.S., where there has been a series of unconfirmed reports, clarifications and reclarifications as to whether the Trump administration is about to kill off a safety-related process set in train by its predecessor.
C-V2X is not the first time that the telecom industry has attempted to create a peer-to-peer mesh-based networking protocol. Those who have been paying attention will remember LTE Direct, defined in 3GPP Release 12, for which Qualcomm was briefly an enthusiastic advocate. That was 2014; since then there have been few trials and no implementations of the technology. It seemed that telecom operators were uninterested in features that bypassed their networks.
C-V2X is likely to be different, though. There are two core constituencies—future smart cities and carmakers—who absolutely need the direct element to meet their key requirements, especially for safety-related use cases. Moreover, there’s a business opportunity for the operators. Direct connectivity is necessary too, to maintain the momentum and the functional superiority over DSRC, which now seems to be falling behind.
Jeremy Green has worked in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years. He has spent most of this time as an analyst, but he also worked as Head of Market Planning at the mobile satellite services company ICO, heading a team responsible for market research, forecasting and competitor analysis. Jeremy also represented ICO within the GSM Association, where he was instrumental in establishing the Satellite Interest Group (SATIG).
"Industry Voices" are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.