The Road to 5G and the Rise of Connected Cars

January 30, 2017

Among the most noticeable developments in IoT technology over the coming years will be a marked proliferation of connected cars. The next decade is forecast to see rapid growth in the market for IoT automobiles: projections from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) indicate that, by 2025, annual sales of connections for connected cars will reach 91 million units. The figures show that, in the same year, the total will approach 527 million – over 40% of the global base of cars and light vans. Data from GSMA Intelligence confirms this picture: with cars emerging as new platforms for an ever-wider range of services, up to two thirds of new cars sold by 2025 are likely to be connected. By 2035, fully autonomous vehicles will likely exceed 20 million. Value in automotive is shifting to connected services.

Mobile network operators will be vital to this growth. The increased data traffic from connected vehicles will place vastly greater demand on mobile networks, with operators likely to meet the challenge by implementation of LTE Advanced Pro and 5G technologies. Existing LTE technologies already provide fast connectivity for telematics and infotainment, as well as support for data streaming, and the next few years will see continued improvement in coverage in most major markets. Looking further ahead, however, transition to LTE Advanced Pro and 5G will introduce major new performance advantages in terms of downlink speed, device density and latency. With latency around ten times lower under 5G than LTE – and throughput reaching up to 10 Gbits per second, over LTE’s maximum of 300 Mbits – operators will be able to deliver significant improvements in the capacity and range of their networks.

Much of this imminent buoyancy in the market is thanks to increased confidence in security. Security was recognised at last year’s Mobile World Congress as the cornerstone on which IoT’s success must be built. It was on that understanding that the GSMA devised its IoT Security Guidelines last year. Lab Mouse Security’s Don Bailey has hailed the Guidelines as the new industry benchmark, describing them as “not just a list of things to do, it’s a baseline for IoT security, period.” The GSMA released its report on Automotive IoT Security last year, which identified the most common forms of attack, and considered the most effective approaches in countering them. Stressing that cost-effective security is best ingrained at the point of manufacture, the report presented several targeted strategies to allay vehicle-specific vulnerabilities, giving automakers a valuable tool in designing cars that inspire confidence among consumers.

Last year’s move by leading vehicle manufacturers to adopt the GSMA’s Embedded SIM Specification has also enhanced security in automotive connectivity, by removing the need for an easily-accessible SIM card in connected vehicles. That operators will now be able to administer such connections remotely not only reduces the possibility of tampering, but provides a crucial boost to efficiency of design, as such vehicles will now be able to ship, resell and travel internationally with far less additional work generated. This agreement – rendering connected vehicles both more secure and less expensive to produce – constitutes a major spur to action for the automotive industry.

This juncture – between the start of a transition towards faster communications with 5G, an array of responses to industry security challenges, and reduction of manufacturing complexity – grants the industry significant opportunities to scale. With the realisation of those opportunities, we will see the anticipated benefits of IoT-ready vehicles begin to emerge as standard. These will include remote diagnostics, which will record information on safety, security and performance in real time; increased provision of infotainment, such as online browsing and music-on-demand; and ‘high-definition’ navigation thanks to the increased bandwidth of 5G, and the range of telematics. The coming years promise significant moves towards making future journeys safer, and less arduous, for many more consumers.

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