Characteristics unique to the 5G spectrum provide opportunities for vehicles to improve mobile connectivity and support mission-critical applications
Fueled by the wide-ranging connectivity available through cellular broadband, buses, delivery trucks, taxis, police cruisers, and other fleet vehicles have become customer service tools, digital workstations, mobile command centers, and beyond — replete with on-board technologies that that elevate productivity, operational efficiency, and user experience.
While organizations still benefit from 4G and Gigabit-Class LTE, 5G for public transit and fleet vehicles is here and in a league of its own, bringing exponentially faster speeds, greater capacity, and ultra-low latency. For early adopters, it also raises questions about characteristics unique to different types of 5G. Also, because fleets move, there are some details relevant for vehicles that are less so for fixed sites.
How is the performance of 5G technology in vehicles affected by motion?
It’s important to understand that 5G is made up of three spectrum bands, and each works differently.
The “high-capacity layer,” also sometimes called the millimeter spectrum, or mmWave, features the gigabit speeds and ultra-low latency that we hear so much about. However, another characteristic of this spectrum is that it has low propagation, meaning the signal doesn’t penetrate obstacles like buildings, and reception is limited to line-of-site.
For that reason, mmWave 5G will initially be available for fixed sites in locations including the downtown areas of big cities, manufacturing and industrial sites, transportation hubs, and large event centers. In the short term, vehicles will not be major users of this spectrum layer.
The “coverage layer” is the 5G spectrum capable of covering the largest area and includes low-band 5G, Gigabit-Class LTE, and 4G LTE. While the capacity and potential speed of this layer is the lowest, its propagation is also highest, meaning it can travel through most buildings and other obstacles without the signal losing integrity. Vehicles have successfully used this spectrum layer for some time.
Lastly, the “capacity layer,” often referred to as “Sub-6” or mid-band 5G, sits between the high-capacity and coverage layers, and features a good balance of both.
Sub-6 5G offers dramatic performance improvements over low-band 5G and medium levels of propagation, leading many experts to consider it the sweet spot of wireless broadband.
Fleets with the right 5G technology in vehicles are enabled to access the greater speed and performance available on the capacity and coverage layers.
What about areas with only 4G or Gigabit-Class LTE service?
There are two important points to consider. First, a 5G modem embedded within an enterprise-class wireless edge router supports both 4G/Gigabit-Class LTE and 5G. This feature, called dual connectivity or 5G ENDC, ensures that a connection is always in place.
Because of this, organizations can buy 5G solutions today, use low-band 5G or 4G, and be ready for when mid-band 5G rolls out in their area.
What happens when a connected vehicle leaves a 5G coverage area?
Dual connectivity makes this a nonissue. For example, if video is being uploaded from a patrol car, the carrier will move that data over multiple streams at the same time. To ensure stability, one of those lanes will always be a 4G anchor band. When 5G is available, the tower can provide access to 5G for more bandwidth.
When a vehicle moves out of a 5G coverage area or has a weak 5G signal, data can continue to flow because it was always connected to the 4G anchor band.
The mobile edge is evolving, and the impact of 5G for vehicles will be game changing. With a 5G vehicle solution in place, organizations will gain the agility to realize future profits and opportunities.