Understanding the emerging 5G wave

The 5G wave is rapidly approaching and its commercial benefits will far outweigh the investments needed to propel numerous segments. Here Gerhard Grossberger, Associate Director - Engineering and R&D, Telematics, HARMAN Automotive answers questions that he is commonly asked about 5G.

​Gerhard Grossberger is currently Associate Director, Engineering and R&D - Telematics at HARMAN Automotive. He has extensive experience with developing strategies for products, services and business-model innovations in the Telematics and Digital Connectivity domains and analyzing market trends for cloud and telematics solutions. Here Gerhard answers questions that he is commonly asked about the world of 5G.


1.  Let’s start with understanding why it makes sense to move from 4G into 5G, and when should this happen?
Gerhard: 5G offers many advantages against all the legacy technology. It is the latest technology, designed to enable high data rates, very low latency and high density of mobile appliances in one wireless cell. On all these three parameters, the older technologies up to 4G have some disadvantages, mainly because they have been designed to meet requirements from 10 years back. 4G networks will face a challenge in the near future because customers are expecting more and more data bandwidth and faster operation. Some market forecast see a huge transition wave from 4G to 5G starting latest around 2025.


2.  What are the impacts of 5G technology to the design of a TCU?
Gerhard: Actually, 5G is not an evolution, it is more a revolution. Based on a completely new design of the digital wireless radio part, it's called New Radio (NR), 5G redefines wireless connectivity also on the backend core network, enabling services to run faster and more reliably. A Telematics Control Unit (TCU)​​ implements these new technologies on three major areas:
  • The Network Access Device (NAD) implements the NR and new radio protocols
  • New antenna technology needs to support higher frequencies than legacy networks, usually in 3-4GHz bands
  • On the application side, both the TCU and vehicle networks needs to support high data throughput
At HARMAN, we have concepts and solutions to integrate all these antennas, hardware and software features into one conformal smart antenna. Conformal means that the design is not visible from outside (like a shark fin antenna). Instead the surface of the smart antenna is conformal with the car roof.

3.  What are the automotive use-cases and drivers towards 5G?
Gerhard: The automotive environment has two focus areas, B2B and B2C. At the B2B side, all automotive OEMs run a number of services that deal with data coming from or going to the car. These use cases mainly improve the driving behavior, optimize maintenance or help in remote diagnostics. The other domain B2C has a much wider spectrum on use cases.

First of course, the modern car can be used as a mobile Hotspot by enabling WiFi internet access for all passengers. Here the data bandwidth requirements will grow with an expected annual growth rate of more than 30%. One other very important driver are ADAS systems​, up to autonomous driving. Even if we might not see fully many autonomous cars on the road in the next 10 years, there will be many semi-autonomous use cases that need high speed, low latency and high reliable wireless connectivity to backend supporting services.

One more trend that we see and has demands towards 5G is that more and more applications will transfer from the digital cockpit in the car to an external cloud application. An example, for instance is intelligent navigation, where high sophisticated algorithms run on a server and only the navigation instructions are executed in the car.

4.  Will there be a 4G shutdown / sundown?
Gerhard: We expect that 4G will still be a valid wireless network, with continuing growth rates for the next years. The expectation is that around 2023 there will be the peak of 4G. After that the number of users in 4G networks start declining. Mainly because of two reasons:

4G networks reach their capacity limits with continuing data consumption growth rates

5G networks reach very good coverage, offering much better performance

Saying this, we expect the first 4G networks to disappear from 2025 ongoing. This will mainly be a process of frequency refarming, where MNOs keep the licenses for their frequencies, but replace 4G radios with 5G technology.

The sundown of 4G will not be a switch-off, but more a silent disappearance. By 2030, there will possibly be a reduction of 4G base stations of 50% or more.

5.  What will happen with legacy networks like 2G and 3G?
Gerhard: There is an interesting development going on with these two networks. 3G has already started to be shut down in some countries. This will continue, so we expect that 3G networks will more or less disappear from now until 2025-2030. In some countries, first 3G networks will be shut down already by 2022.
On the other side, 2G as a worst-case fallback infrastructure is expected to continue just for voice calls. There is a requirement from official departments to have this in case of emergencies, or legacy eCall implementations.

6.  Can I save money by moving functionality from the car to the cloud at a 5G connection?
Gerhard: Yes. First, it's a fact that the cost of data volume was ever decreasing in the past, and this trend will continue with 5G. It is expected that the cost per GB in 5G networks will reduce to 10% of the cost per GB in 4G networks. And second, when we look on use cases that need high sophisticated algorithms, it is much cheaper to have this computation power in a cloud server (which is shared by many users), instead of adding DMIPs and memory to every single vehicle.

7.  How fast is the automotive industry moving toward 5G?
Gerhard: The first 5G TCU​ in the world will be launched in 2021 by HARMAN, and the number of 5G TCUs is expected to ramp up rapidly in the coming years. Industry forecasts estimate that more than 10 million 5G TCUs will be shipped in 2026, which accounts for 10-20% of the entire automotive telematics market. 

8.  So, to finish, here’s the big question… what comes next after 5G?
Gerhard: The next step will be 5G radio technology used in high frequency mmWave spectrum. This will boost data throughput by a factor of 10+ again, resulting in several GBits/s data rates. In parallel there are standardization bodies like ITU-R and 3GPP consortium which are working on the next generation radio technologies, use cases and protocols. In some years, this will finally result in a new specification. However, this coming 6G evolution may become reality in years after 2030.

For more information on HARMAN 5G, click here​ to download this document summarizing the entire interview that was recently conducted.

More information about 5G Solutions
Smart Conformal Antenna
The HARMAN 5G TCU with Smart Conformal Antenna combines multiple antennas in a single module that can be mounted beneath the vehicle’s body surface and covered with a waterproof, non-conductive cover (radome). It integrates leading automotive 5G connectivity technology with up to 14 different vehicle antennas to offer the industry’s only all-in-one package assembly.

Gerhard Grossberger

Associate Director, Engineering and R&D - Telematics at HARMAN International​​

Connect with the Author:LinkedIn​​​​
Related Insights
Is 5G a Must-Have for Autonomous Vehicles?
5G is set to play pivotal role as automakers seek to integrate vehicles into the Internet of Things. But it also represents a paradigm shift for V2X technologies on the road to autonomous driving.
Read More
Why is 5G telematics a game changer for social connection?
Explore the tremendous potential and game-changing applications of 5G in enabling level 3-5 automated cars.
Read More