CONNECTED MOBILITY 5G in mobility systems: applications, advantages and network development
This article provides an introduction to 5G technology, and the benefits – and challenges – it will bring to the mobility sector. Existing, emerging and future uses of the technology in mobility applications such as public transport, autonomous vehicles, Mobility-as-a-Service, etc., are key focus areas.
5G – the latest global wireless standard – has the power to bring transformational change to a range of sectors, including mobility. In fact, that change has already started to materialize, as increasing numbers of countries and companies roll out 5G networks. Global coverage is uneven, with some countries and regions enjoying a significant head start in terms of network rollout and numbers of connections.
With global numbers of 5G subscribers already on the rise, and predicted to grow even faster over the next few years, mobility systems are particularly well-placed to benefit from the technology, with a slew of potential applications poised to bring an array of advantages for vehicle manufacturers, car drivers, cities and public transport users/operators.
Like previous-generation mobile technologies, 5G uses a system of cells that divide mobile networks into sectors and send encoded data through radio waves. In that respect, it’s no different from 4G. But 5G enjoys significant advantages that enable it to far out-perform 4G against a multitude of key performance indicators that reflect what’s important to service users and operators. Although significant investment will be vital to overcoming the challenges associated with 5G deployment, particularly in certain areas, these challenges will not have enough clout to derail the huge benefits that the technology will bring for home and business users, as well as public- and private-sector players.
A wide range of applications
5G technology has the potential to bring benefits to a very wide range of applications in the mobility ecosystem, including public transport (both local and long-distance), Mobility-as a-Service (MaaS), automated vehicles, fleet management, vehicle maintenance, micromobility and mission-critical operations carried out by police and emergency services.
Key to the majority of new and enhanced mobility ecosystem applications is the ability – enabled by 5G – to have very large numbers of devices in a small area connected to the same network at the same time.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs), for example, used in conjunction with smart road networks, will be capable of communicating with an amazing array of mobility ecosystem components, including other vehicles, traffic control centers, emergency services and even pedestrians, thanks to the power of 5G technology. Widespread use of AVs – potentially one of the biggest transformational effects of 5G in the years to come – will help improve road safety, reduce pollution and improve the flow of traffic.
Connected (non-autonomous) vehicles equipped with embedded 5G cellular communication capabilities are already starting to be released, meeting demand for cars that function as an extension of drivers’ smartphones (although, once again, the picture at global level is differentiated, with one region in particular leading the way). 5G technology will also benefit commercial vehicle fleets, and can even be retrofitted to cars that were not originally designed to accommodate it, bringing the benefits of connectivity to a wider audience.
Public transport use cases
Public transport is another key area where the benefits brought by pioneering 5G technology will have a genuinely transformational effect in, and bring a slew of opportunities for innovation and business growth. The benefits will span the entire public transportation ecosystem, from local public transport, micromobility and Mobility-as-a-Service to long-distance transport (notably air travel), potentially encouraging more people to use public transport, with all of the associated benefits.
Users of local public transport will have their journeys transformed by 5G; end-to-end high-speed Wi-Fi access is just the start of the story. The same is also true of long-distance rail and air transport: the benefits begin before the journey starts, and continue right until users reach their destination, ensuring a safer, smoother trip for everyone involved (passengers and operators alike). 5G technology will even help reduce the likelihood of passengers’ bags getting lost during air travel.
Micromobility and MaaS
Micromobility (encompassing shared bicycles, electric and motor scooters, and disabled mobility scooters) looks set to be given a new lease of life by the power and reliability that 5G has to offer. Problems such as vandalism and misuse will largely be consigned to the past, and everything will happen much more smoothly and conveniently, from downloading the online platform app, to finding out local transport and weather information. Brand-new uses will likely find their way into this part of the mobility ecosystem, too.
The concept of Mobility-as-a-Service could have been tailor-made for 5G: in a fully 5G-enabled MaaS system, a single online account will be all that users will need to access a frictionless, end-to-end, people-centered mobility solution that lets them do things they haven’t been able to do before, like host a meeting and order dinner when they would previously have been on the highway driving to work. MaaS systems will bring benefits for cities, too.
Network development: challenges, economic impact and timeframe
Deployment of the global 5G network undoubtedly faces challenges, particularly in certain areas. Use cases for 5G technology in the mobility sector also face some specific challenges, not least in terms of security.
The likely timeframe for widespread rollout at global level five years from now reflects the current situation: some regions are pressing ahead with 5G rollout more quickly and successfully than others, due to a variety of factors.
It’s clear that the benefits of this pioneering technology in terms of growth and innovation will soon be felt across a number of industries, notably the mobility sector. A vast amount of commercial, technical and regulatory effort is being brought to bear by state and private players around the globe that will genuinely transform – and is, in fact, already transforming – the way we design, plan, purchase and experience mobility in all its different forms.