5G: Transformational for driverless vehicles says Telefonica | Q&A
Mercedes Fernandez

5G: Transformational for driverless vehicles says Telefonica | Q&A

5G networks are going to play an important role in future smart city programmes. With trials now underway – including Bristol University’s recent world-first, end-to-end 5G urban network – Internet of Business spoke to Mercedes Fernández, head of innovation at Telefonica España, which is driving a 5G-enabled smart city programme in Spain.

Internet of Business: Telefonica has a major smart cities initiative in place: the 5G Technological Cities Project. Can you tell us more about the programme and its aims?

Mercedes Fernández: “The 5G Technological Cities project is a three-year plan from 2018 to 2020, during which we will deploy in the mobile networks of two Spanish cities all of the technical developments that are going to evolve the current 4G network until 5G arrives.

“We have chosen two cities – Segovia and Talavera de la Reina – that over the next three years will become living laboratories of 5G. We will offer to citizens and companies the possibility to enjoy the improvements of the network.

“By starting with two cities we will be able to adapt our systems and have enough time to plan deployments to the rest of the national network in an optimal way. Many of the new features to be tested will be progressively extended to the rest of the network.”

The project was announced in January. What progress has been made since then? Are any services already available to city authorities or citizens at this time?

“We have begun the plan by implementing plug-in 5G into the 4G network. At the end of this year we plan to deploy 5G itself. Initially this will not be a standalone implementation, but supported by the evolving 4G network. However, in 2019 we will deploy the 5G network as a standalone implementation.

“With plug-in 5G, we are focusing on increasing the performance of the 4G network to obtain peak speeds of up to 1Gbps. We are using new frequency bands, carrier aggregation, new modulations, and multi-antenna technologies to achieve this.

“We are also focusing on improving the latency-reduction capabilities of Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) – that is to say, placing content and applications closer to the place where the client consumes them, in order to reduce latency.

“We hope to have all of these features in place during the second or third quarter of 2018 in both cities. This will give us the first use cases over a 4.9G network, and will show us the capacity of the 5G plug-in. We will be announcing the main steps in our network evolution with demonstrations that show how this new capability, activated progressively, can be exploited.

“On 10 April, Telefonica, Ericsson, EasyMile and CarMedia presented the first 5G demonstrator on board the EZ10 autonomous shuttle using the 3.5GHz band, a pioneering band in the use of this technology.

EZ10 driverless shuttles

“With this project, we opened a window into the future, showing how 5G capabilities can benefit autonomous driving, with streaming of high-definition content in real time while driving autonomously, and the use of driverless vehicles as a work environment, with virtual office applications such as videoconferencing and email.

“The high capacity and low latency of 5G technology can really assist in autonomous driving applications. A standalone vehicle generates several terabytes of data daily, and the actions or decisions involved in things like braking or lane change need to be taken in a few milliseconds.”

Do you think vehicles like the EZ10 autonomous minibus are viable in large, busy tourist cities like London, Paris or Rome, or are they better suited to smaller cities? When – if ever – do you think they will be commonplace sights on the streets of major cities?

“It is too soon to have a proper opinion about this. We are in an innovation area, and with this demo we wanted to show the advantages of 5G networks when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

“5G has much to offer in this area, especially with regard to high-throughput, low-latency applications. Everything ‘learned’ by an autonomous car – which is up to 4TB of information a day – can be transferred to the cloud so that the rest of the actors in these applications – pedestrians, the urban infrastructure, other vehicles and so on – can benefit from the experience.”

Internet of Business says

2018 has been a year of highs and lows for 5G: a number of experimental deployments throughout the world, which continue to reveal the promise of the technology as it evolves, but also fears expressed about its security, and ambivalence from some providers about the technology itself.

Here are some recent Internet of Business reports on the fast-changing story of 5G: