This week, leading network benchmarking specialist Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) published the findings of its recent nationwide, in-car connectivity test.
The company conducted the test in a bid to explore how consumers use their mobile devices in the cars of today, as well as their expectations for the increasingly connected, autonomous vehicles of the future.
GWS conducted a series of tests evaluating mobile network performance of O2, EE, Three and Vodafone on 10 major UK motorways (the M1, M3, M4, M6, M23, M25, M27, M42, M60 and M62).
Specialists used a number of apps in these tests, including the GWS diagnostic software running on iPhone 6S devices, and the Rohde & Schwarz SwissQual QualiPoc Freerider running on Samsung S6 devices.
Overall, the test found that the average time spent on 4G LTE networks across Britain’s motorways is inconsistent, ranging between 30 percent and 84 percent.
It also identified the fact that connectivity is key for consumers. More than three in five respondents said that they use a smartphone while in the car and are using internet services at least one day a week.
That said, in-car mobile experiences also seem to be inconsistent. A large majority of respondents (68 percent) said they have issues accessing their preferred connected services.
The M6, which runs north through Birmingham, appeared to have the worst LTE coverage of all the UK’s major motorways. Coverage ranged between 19 percent to 75 percent, depending on the operator.
EE trumped its rivals for having the best highway connectivity over LTE, while O2, Vodafone and Three follow behind. But, of course, signal strength is something that varies a great deal.
Looking to the future
In another important area of the study, it found that drivers see the future of in-car connectivity as being built around their smartphones.
Within the next ten years, consumers want to see mainstream cars sporting built-in WiFi so that they can connect their tablets, phones and other smart devices.
This finding was driven by younger drivers. It found that 18-24 year olds will stream video (44 percent) just as much as they will use navigation apps (48 percent) on a long-distance car journey.
Brits also believe that cars of the future need to put road safety and convenience first, through communicating critical information over mobile networks with other cars (31 percent), roadside infrastructure (28 percent) and car dealerships (27 percent).
A staggering 61 percent of people said they’d like to own autonomous car within the next ten years, with the first mass market models expected to hit roads in the 2020s.
Paul Carter, CEO at GWS, said that 4G connectivity has come a long way within the last few years but that it lags on Britain’s motorways. This is something that needs to improve, he added.
“Mobile networks in the UK have made great strides when it comes to nationwide 4G deployment. However, LTE coverage is variable across networks and is not yet ubiquitous on UK motorways,” he said.
“4G networks will serve as the conduit for those wireless technologies that will support the future of connected vehicles. Our survey shows that consumers still see the smartphone providing the hub for entertainment content while on the move.
“In terms of critical communication and autonomous driving, they anticipate that their cars will have these capabilities within a decade.”