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22 July 2019

European Union opens door to cellular V2X alongside 802.11p

The European Union has rejected the European Commission’s recommendation that the WiFi-based (802.11p) ITS-G5 standard be mandated as the requirement for vehicle-to-X (V2X) capabilities, in a recommendation that opened the door to the Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) technology favored by the GSMA community. However, it is important to note that this win is not equivalent to the EU mandating C-V2X.

Given the number of times this decision seems to have flip-flopped back and for, this hardly seems the end of the process. Some 21 of the 28 member states, including the three countries with major automotive markets (France, Germany, Italy) voted against the EC proposal, but the European Transport Commissioner has said that she will try to address these concerns and find a way to move forward.

It is unclear what this actually means, for the near future. It seems that the proposal is still in the mix, although it will have to be amended by the EC before it is voted on by the EU again. However, the longer this takes, the more ground that C-V2X and 5G gain, and so the main argument in favor of 802.11p back when this process kicked off, that it was available now while C-V2X was not, erodes further.

Now, historically the GSMA side of the debate wasn’t necessarily opposed to 802.11p. Sure, this collective claim that C-V2X and eventually 5G are superior on technological grounds, but their main objection was that the legal framework did not make room for any other technologies besides ITS-G5.

Back in April, the GSMA warned that the looming decision would be disastrous, and that the Delegated Act on C-ITS “tries to overcome its obvious shortcomings by including a review clause that allows for other technologies to become part of the C-ITS ecosystem [but] this is simply not possible. To be added to C-ITS there are demands of ‘interoperability’ and ‘backwards compatibility’. The GSMA then likened this process to trying to get a DVD to work in a VHS player.

The next month, in May, Toyota declared that it had had enough of the foot-dragging and would not be deploying V2X in the US in 2021, as was its previous plan. This was in response to the USA’s continuing consideration of getting rid of the protection for DSRC usage in the 5.9 GHz band, on the basis that no one was using the spectrum for its intended use.

Had Toyota’s decision to delay ITS-G5 come after Europe had decided against ITS-G5, then we might have declared that 802.11p was dead. But the new EU decision does not go this far, and so there is still room for ITS-G5 to make a comeback.

When the GSMA originally filed that warning, we said that if the interoperability clauses were adjusted, then there would likely be enough room for C-V2X alongside ITS-G5. This would then allow C-V2X to use its apparently far larger fanbase to become the dominant V2X standard, as the GSMA had noted that 802.11p was a decade old and still not deployed. However, the Delegated Act has flatly been rejected, rather than slightly tweaked, and so it seems that we are back to the drawing board.

Broadly, support for ITS-G5 comes from Volkswagen and Toyota, the top two auto makers globally, along with General Motors and Volvo, and chip provider NXP. The C-V2X camp consists of the GSMA, as well as BMW, Daimler, Ford, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung – all of which have visions of C-V2X evolving into a central part of the 5G vision of the future. As more MNOs start rolling out 5G networks, their argument that 5G and C-V2X are now ready deploy takes more chunks out of the rationale behind the initial European justification for favoring ITS-G5 – that it was ready now, while the cellular equivalent was not.