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5G, C-V2X, and automotive connectivity in 2021

08 January 2021 Patrick Linder

See why the recent FCC decision to hit the accelerator on C-V2X and slam the brakes on DSRC could mean big things for 5G and what the auto industry should watch for moving forward.

Ads touting the benefits of 5G are everywhere these days. But if you're not thinking about the potential value that 5G brings to the auto industry, you should be. In late 2020, the FCC voted to reallocate 75 MHz of spectrum that had previously been allocated for Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) services. For years, DSRC was viewed as a key to unlocking vehicle-to-vehicle use cases and increasing safety features. But the FCC's decision means slamming the brakes on DSRC and hitting the accelerator on Cellular V2X (C-V2X) instead.

In many ways, the FCC ruling maps to the growing importance of connectivity across other areas of our lives and communities. From IoT applications to the promise of smart cities (and smart vehicles!) to simply being able to stream entertainment whenever we want to and wherever we are, connectivity is becoming a piece of daily infrastructure as important as having good roads and highways. 2020 saw the very first vehicles hit the road with 5G network capability, with more than 70 brands supporting 5G by 2023.

For auto manufacturers, this increase in dependence of connectivity brings both benefits and new potential risks. First the benefits: 5G promises to bring greater capacity, vastly improved speeds, and much lower latency/lag. In the context of C-V2X applications, this will translate into increased infotainment options, the capacity to handle more and more cars talking to one another simultaneously, and improved safety features, all without the fear of congestion or interruptions in service. Indeed, the benefits of 5G make it a key cornerstone for a future where all cars are constantly in communication with one another, with pedestrians, and even with city and road infrastructure.

On the other hand, as dependence on and expectations for connectivity grow, any interruption in service becomes more and more problematic. And, like it or not, when connectivity fails, users are likely to blame the car more than the cellular or connectivity network itself. From this perspective, manufacturers that create the most robust and resilient C-V2X connectivity systems could have an important advantage moving forward.

The FCC decision splits the 75 MHz of DSRC spectrum (5.850 - 5.925 GHz) into two pieces: the upper 30 MHz will be reserved solely for C-V2X, while the lower 45 MHz is left for unlicensed use. At RootMetrics (IHS Markit's mobile performance business line), we're constantly testing not only 5G but how the various bands of spectrum perform. The good news is that this band of 5.9 GHz spectrum should offer both high speeds and good coverage. We'll be interested, however, in learning whether dedicating only 30 MHz for C-V2X is enough, particularly as our connectivity needs continue to grow.

For more insights on 5G performance or how our connectivity insights (including the ability to show signal strength across all major US roadways) can help your company, contact RootMetrics today.

Posted 08 January 2021 by Patrick Linder, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience, RootMetrics, IHS Markit


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