American automotive giant Ford is building its own LTE/5G network to test connected cars in a private environment.
Ford’s network will be set up at its campus in Dearborn, Michigan. The network will operate in the 3.5GHz CBRS band and use equipment from Ericsson, Juniper, and Dell.
The company has filed a request with the FCC for permission to build a test network in the spectrum band.
Little information about Ford’s plans can be extracted from the filing other than it’s been granted for 18 months and the network will be established in a parking lot.
We can only speculate at this point how Ford will use its private network, but the parking lot environment is unlikely a coincidence. Some form of parking technology is a likely candidate for the tests, though it could also be a location selected for testing in potentially troublesome network conditions.
Ford only says it wants to gain experience “with installation and operation of a private cellular network for connected vehicle services.”
The use of the CBRS band shows Ford is considering the use of a private network using cellular technology in licensed spectrum as an alternative to WiFi.
The debate over WiFi vs 5G for connected cars has been particularly strong in the EU where the bloc aims to establish a common approach. The EU Commission, along with Volkswagen, want to use WiFi for connected cars.
Earlier this month, European nations voted against the EU’s executive proposal for a WiFi-based connected car standard in favour of 5G technology. Industry backers for 5G include Ford, Daimler, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, and, of course, mobile industry groups like the GSMA and 5GAA.
The EU has a tendency to make tweaks and put it back to a vote until it gets its own way, so the debate likely isn’t over. Getting the EU’s many parliaments, committees, councils, and more to agree a common position is a cumbersome process, so the debate could still be going on while the rest of the world has moved on.