The Role of 5G in the Evolution of Automotive

Season 1 Episode 14
July 19, 2023
15:37

Episode Summary

Special guest Matt Harden, AVP Business Development at AT&T, takes us on a drive down 5G lane. How is 5G enabling new vehicle functionalities and supporting mission-critical connected vehicle functions? What challenges are networks facing to support the shift to the software defined vehicle? And what does the future have in store for 5G and automotive?

Key Highlights

1:10 The transition from 4G to 5G

2:38 Mobility products in IoT

3:58 The five year outlook of 5G 

6:31 Challenges faced by networks with the shift to 5G and SDVs

8:04 Reducing the barrier to entry  

10:09 Challenges with supporting advanced services

11:15 The future of millimeter wave

Meet Our Guests

Matt Harden
Matt Harden

Matt Harden, AVP Business Development, is responsible for AT&T Connected Solution’s Connected Car team. His team is responsible for managing each of AT&T’s OEM relationships from RFx, to contracting, to deploying, and supporting after launch. Matt joined AT&T as part of the Leadership Development Program in 2008. Since then, Matt has held positions in Network Operations, New Product Deployment, Business Solutions, and IoT Product Development. Matt serves on the board of two different 501c3 organizations, Hackin’ for Harden and the Navy Football Brotherhood, and also supports the US Naval Academy’s admission office as a Blue and Gold Officer representative in Georgia. Matt holds an MBA from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Science degree from The United States Naval Academy. Following graduation from the Naval Academy, he served 9 years on active duty and continues to serve in the reserves with multiple deployments in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan, and Enduring Freedom – Philippines. Matt and Andreea have been married for 18 years and have 4 daughters.

Steve Schwinke
Steve Schwinke

Steve Schwinke is Vice President of Customer Engagement at Sibros, working closely with OEMs and Tier One suppliers to accelerate their connected vehicle solutions. He is a pioneer in the industry having spent 22 years at General Motors as an original Executive member of the OnStar team designing their first 3-button system, developing and launching numerous industry-first connected vehicle products and services. He is a recognized expert in connected vehicle technology having served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Telecommunications Industry Association and has been awarded 34 patents involving telecommunications, telematics, and navigation. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master's of Science in Wireless Communication Systems from Santa Clara University.

Transcript

Announcer:

Welcome back to another episode of Point B, a Sibros podcast where we interview industry experts about the latest innovations and trends in automotive technology and the connected vehicle industry. Tune in to learn about topics ranging from the next generation of electric vehicles to advances in connectivity and micro mobility.

Steve Schwinke:

Welcome to our Point B podcast, where we discuss the future of mobility and the underlying market forces in technology that's going to drive our industry forward. Today I'm lucky to have my friend Matt Harden, AVP Business Development, IoT Connected Car Solutions at AT&T. He has over 20 years of experience building and leading high performance teams. He's had leadership roles for IoT for connected cars, drones, and new tech development. He's a graduate of the US Naval Academy and holds an MBA from the University of Georgia. Welcome, Matt.

Matt Harden:

Thank you for having me, Steve. It's great to see you.

Steve Schwinke:

Matt, let's dive right in here. Why don't you start by telling me what's been happening with this transition from 4G to 5G technology?

Matt Harden:

Yeah, there's a lot going on, as I think everybody knows. If you think about where we are as a company and in the industry in general, as it relates to connected cars, the focus around the 5G deployment has really been centered around the primary drivers in everyone's business, which is consumer mobility and handsets. The connected car space, for a number of reasons, is a little bit later in getting 5G technology out in the vehicles, but we're excited that we're about to kind of turn that corner.

For us at AT&T, with the leadership in this space that we have with more than 60 million cars on our network, it's become a really critical factor in the development and deployment of our networks to be able to support the connected car use case. We're excited about what, really, the latter part of the decade is going to bring. As more and more technologies are being delivered into the vehicles, as the OEMs continue to innovate and drive new solutions that their customers will engage with, we're excited to create a network and develop a network and deploy a network to be able to support those different technologies and services.

Steve Schwinke:

There's also been car manufacturers, there's also been this explosion of mobility products around IoT. What have you seen in that space?

Matt Harden:

Yeah, so again, I think the IoT space as well, is a little bit slower to adopt when it comes to 5G. Anytime there's a new technology evolution, there's always that cost to adopt that new technology. Until it really hits mainstream, those initial devices, those initial modules tend to be on the higher end of the scale. You're seeing larger companies with larger deployments that are leaning forward and working to get those 5G solutions out there, while everybody else is really more in a holding pattern, I would say right now, until you get more mass adoption, get more devices out there, start to drive down some of those costs.

But, I would say that any conversation that myself or my peers on the IoT side that are out there selling millions and millions of devices every year for us, it comes up in every conversation that we're having. Everyone's ready, everyone's excited about making that transition. But, I would say we're at a tipping point. You're going to start to see it happen here in '24. Get to '25, I think you're going to start to see much more adoption of 5G, and then it becomes the norm as you look at the latter part of '25 through the rest of the decade.

Steve Schwinke:

Are there other things happening in the next five years in this area?

Matt Harden:

To be determined. With all new technologies, there's a lot of information out there of what the future of 5G holds. I mean, we're looking at an ultra reliable, low latency network. We're looking to bring in edge cloud compute resources. We're putting the building blocks together for what we think customers want to go do with the technology, and we're working in conjunction with them. A lot of these are proofs of concepts and trials at the moment, but we want to be ready to support. When those applications, when those use cases come to bear, we're ready to go at that time. 

One of the number one conversations that we get into typically is, why 5G? What are the applications? What are the use cases that I can take back to my leadership to justify why I'm going to go spend a little bit extra on a module right now to make this transition? We're working through that I would say collectively as an industry right now, there's some basic ones out there that I think are low hanging fruit for a lot of people.

 But, what you see with a lot of things, like when the iPhone came around, there was no app store. You put the technology out there, you give people the ability to engage with it, and that's when the developers, the technology leads, the folks that have a great business idea put that technology to use to go realize it. We know it's coming. We know there's going to be some incredible use cases and solutions that are going to be realized once we get there.

Our focus right now is, one, trying to move as many of our customers into 5G. We don't want to deal with the tail end of this, which is some network shutdown that occurs naturally. We've seen it with 2G, we've seen it with 3G. We will see it at some point in the future with LTE. The sooner we can get more of our customers and their devices onto 5G, that's less that we have to deal with on the back end. We know none of that's fun. Nobody likes to deal with it, whether you're a network operator or an OEM, if you've got devices out there and you're going through some kind of technology sundown, it's a lot of pain and suffering for everybody involved, especially the customers that have those devices. That's been a big push for us.

Steve Schwinke:

There's a lot of opportunity here, but there's also a lot of challenges. What are some of the additional challenges the network is facing to really support this shift?

Matt Harden:

Yeah, so I mean, just look AT&T, and I think I would say the industry in general is how we deployed, millimeter wave was really at the forefront of those deployments. If you look at millimeter wave and what it can do, it's great for a fixed wireless scenario. We know in my space and connected car, they're not fixed very often. The millimeter wave is an additional cost component that has to go into that decision making process of that device that goes into the vehicle. There's not a ton of use cases today that justify millimeter wave.

Then it comes down to that C-band deployment. Everyone's really bullish and we feel really good about C-band. Once you get out there, it's got longer propagation, it handles the bandwidth. That has been, for us, the focus is, one, getting that C-band deployed across the country everywhere that we can. Two, getting our standalone 5G core stood up nationwide and supporting that C-band. There's going to be an evolution to get there. You're going from LTE to 5G, non-ST standalone NSA, and then eventually get to that standalone architecture with C-band, which that's when you get into those really low latent, high bandwidth type applications that we think are going to be readily available and needed by the industry in that '25, '26 timeframe.

Steve Schwinke:

Right. No, those are some big challenges that you face. What are some of the things that you're doing to reduce that barrier to entry with the network?

Matt Harden:

I mean, for us it's partnering. Every conversation we have, we want to be partners with our customers. If that is bringing the devices into us, let us help you with that certification process. Let's go test out different scenarios so you can see the difference between the device you have in place today versus what the device of the future can bring you, then we're supporting that with these customers. We're out there trying to spin up proofs of concept to show the capabilities that the future can hold, especially as it relates to edge cloud compute. I think there's going to be some really neat applications that will be developed and deployed at the edge that will take advantage of the low latency that these networks and the low jitter that these networks will be able to provide.

That's been our focus really, is trying to find partners that are interested in wanting to make that jump into 5G and figuring it out together, not us deploying it and saying, "Here it is. What do you want to do with it?" But, "Hey, let's go figure this out together. Here's what we're planning to go do. Let's see how that aligns with your roadmap and where you want to go and how you want to get there." Maybe we're doing things that won't work for you or don't work for you and we can talk about that. Or maybe you got things that we're not considering that you would like us to, so bring those into us and we'll take those back as well.

It's got to happen in conjunction with one another. I don't think it does us any good to go out there and assume we know what the industry wants and needs, what our IoT customers and connected car customers want. I think we present them the capabilities and what it is that the architecture and the roadmap looks like, and then how that fits in with their plans and their business needs. Ultimately, it's about delivering an experience for that customer. At the end of the day, if we're not in sync with one another and deploying things that the customers want and need, then we both miss the mark there.

Steve Schwinke:

What are some of these advanced services that you're offering, what are some of the challenges that you're facing to support these?

Matt Harden:

As you start looking at things that affect, not a particular customer OEM, but the broader industry, there's a lot that goes into standardization and regulation around that. I would say that V2X conversation was really hot and heavy two, three years ago. I mean, if you were out at CES, pre-covid, there was all kinds of demos that were taking place, and that was the big buzzword. Then it just kind of cooled off a little bit. Right? But you're seeing those conversations start to pick up again. I think the network is going to play a critical component in that, the kind of the V to N to X, and how the network can interact with that data and produce that data for not just one particular customer or OEM, but a broader set of vehicles and transportation things that are on the road.

Steve Schwinke:

Can we talk a little bit more about millimeter wave technology and some of the things that people are going to start doing with this fixed communication? It's not really well suited for mobility, but there's some real advantages that you can do in that millimeter wave band.

Matt Harden:

Yeah, if you've ever experienced millimeter wave on a device, I mean, it's impressive. But, it's very fickle at the same time. The advantages of it are you can deploy it very easily. You can go into an area where you just need a tower or a light pole, some access to be able to run a line to and get that stood up very quickly and really efficiently and at a pretty decent price. You can start to fill in holes that you may have in your network. What you're seeing in the industry with millimeter wave today has really been around fixed wireless, having a broadband solution for rural areas that have a hard time getting good internet connectivity today.

AT&T is more focused around fiber deployments. We are looking to expand our fiber footprint. We want to serve our customers in rural areas with fiber in as many places as possible. Some of our competitors have taken a different stance and are using that millimeter wave technology to provide services for customers that have had either no internet access or service or very poor internet access. That's one area that's been really useful with that millimeter wave technology. There will be a need, I believe, as you start looking back into the cities and some of the technologies that can be deployed. Again, kind of like the C2V conversation, smart cities was a big buzzword a few years ago. It was probably a little bit ahead of its time.

But, I think as you get into the latter part of this decade, and you've got pretty much all cars now supporting 5G, standalone technology, C-band will be deployed everywhere, standalone will be deployed everywhere, and start to push that use case back into the city, where now you can start to deploy parking solutions. You can start to look at, as we get very inundated with electric vehicles, instead of having charging stations, charging pads, which will require very precise positioning in order to make sure that vehicle battery is sitting correctly on those pads. Those are some of the use cases I think will start to develop. Then I think that's where you start to look at a broader deployment of millimeter wave technology in major cities and communities.

Another component of that, which I think will have a play for the industry is probably around over the air updates. The vehicles are becoming smarter every day. There's a lot more software that's being deployed on those vehicles. OTA is one area that we are hyper-focused on in working together with our customers to ensure that our network can support and deliver the updates that they need for their vehicles. Some of these will become mission critical type updates. We want to make sure that we're working on solutions that can support that and ensure that we're supporting our customers to deliver the best experience in the vehicle for their customers. I think millimeter wave does have an opportunity longer term as you start looking at that type of use case as well.

Steve Schwinke:

I've watched the evolution of cellular since its early days of just analog only phone calls all the way to 5G. That underlying technology that goes into delivering a 5G experience is just impressive to say the least. Keep doing the good work AT&T. Looking forward to more conversations here in the future. Matt I really did appreciate having you here and joining us today for our podcast. Thank you.

Matt Harden:

Yeah, Steve, I really appreciate the time. It was good to chat with you, and definitely look forward to connecting with you here in the near term.

Announcer:

Thank you for tuning in to Point B. Join us next time for more tech innovations and trends. Point B is brought to you by Sibros.