COVID-19 impact on 5G and data privacy regulation
A direct impact of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is the delay of key regulations relative to the connected car ecosystem. While support for a unified regulation in key areas such as the 5G spectrum was high in 2019, largely led by the European Union, the focus has understandably shifted to health and economic support for the population in crisis. Most governing bodies not focused on this point are simply not meeting owing to quarantine and social distancing restrictions.
According to the latest IHS Markit COVID-19 Automotive R&D Impact Survey, over 60% of the respondents expected regulations on autonomous vehicles and active safety to be impacted, with some even believing that the implementation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), due in mid-2022, is at risk. Regulations that add a substantial cost per vehicle will likely be reconsidered following the economic ramifications of the pandemic, as many believe these costs will be passed on to final consumers.
5G technology standards and licensing delays
When it comes to 5G deployment, the focus of 2020 was on coming releases from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a global organization that develops telecommunication standards. The 3GPP has made progress toward cross-industry standardization that will be vital for deployments of 5G and utilization of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology. Key releases have been delayed as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
- Release 16 Stage 3 freeze: Delayed from March 2020 to June 2020. This release addresses substantial enhancements to features including carrier aggregation, spectrum sharing, and multiple input/output. It also enables new verticals relative to V2X communications, ITS, positioning, and utilizing NR in an unlicensed spectrum. This key delay will likely delay 5G commitments and research into new 5G use cases, as no new functions can be added.
- Release 17 Stage 3 freeze: Delayed from June 2021 to September 2021. This release addresses new functionality related to massive machine-type communications, enhanced mobile broadband, and ultra-reliable low-latency communication. This delay will likely delay 5G commitments and research into new 5G use cases, as no new functions can be added.
- Release 17 ASN.1 + OpenAPI specification freeze: Delayed from September 2021 to December 2021. The central focus of this release is to ensure compatibility between GSM and UMTS, LTE, and 5G networks. Commonality in this approach is essential for widespread application of 5G networks.
Another significant delay for 5G development is a series of postponed auctions for 5G spectrum licenses. These are handled at the country level in cooperation with local governments and members of the telecommunications industry. So far, there have been indefinite suspensions of auctions in Spain, France, Austria, Portugal, and India.
Data privacy impact
For the first time since its inception, European and even global regulatory bodies are looking at the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to provide the legal grounds to enable the employers and the competent public health authorities to process personal data in the context of epidemics, without the need to obtain the consent of the data subject. This applies when the processing of personal data is necessary for employers, for reasons of public interest, in the area of public health, or to protect vital interests (Art. 6 and 9 of the GDPR) or to comply with another legal obligation. Since the escalation of COVID-19 to a pandemic, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has issued two statements regarding data protection in the fight against the virus.
- March 2020: Clarification that new laws are required to use mobile location data to track the COVID-19 spread
- April 2020: Adoption of the European Commission guidance on use of apps for contract tracing and warnings to minimize interference of privacy while allowing data processing to preserve public health
In March 2020, the Attorney General of California clarified that it would not delay enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) despite petitions from more than 60 companies requesting a six-month grace period.
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