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EU lawmakers back Wi-Fi over 5G technologies for connected cars

The European Commission has shocked many technology experts by supporting a Wi-Fi based standard for cars that is being pursued by automotive behemoth Volkswagen.

European Union lawmakers have endorsed Wi-Fi over 5G technologies that were being promoted and advocated by BMW and US chipmaker Qualcomm. The decision is seen as a huge victory for Volkswagen.

The EU executive expressed a desire to set benchmarks for internet connected cars in a market that is being projected to generate billions in revenues for car manufacturers, telecommunication operators and ICT equipment vendors like ZTE, Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia.

However, the debate over whether or not the benchmarks should be made on Wi-Fi or 5G technology has been contentious and has seen a huge split between the auto and tech industries. Both sides have engaged in robust lobbying efforts in an effort to secure a share of the potentially lucrative market for internet-driven connected vehicles.

Those that have thrown their weight behind Wi-Fi technology include Renault, Toyota, NXP, Autotalks and Kapsch TrafficCom. The technology primarily connects cars to other cars.

5G backers include big names such as Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung.

Fifth generation, or 5G, standard hooks up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, with a wider range of applications in areas such as entertainment, traffic data and general navigation.

The European Commission has offered a robust defense regarding its stance and subsequent decision on Wi-Fi technology, saying that it is available unlike 5G and that it would undoubtedly help to boost road safety.

However, many have been critical of the move and called for a requirement that new technologies become modified and that to be compatible with older technology is unrealistic and would put a brake on innovation.

“The text, as currently proposed by the Commission, fails to ensure a level playing field between existing technologies by imposing discriminatory interoperability and compatibility requirements against newer technologies,” lobbying group and 5G technology supporter 5GAA said.

The telecoms industry, which is putting its hopes in 5G applications to recoup its investments, was similarly critical.

 “Europe cannot mandate only one technology for connected driving. Member states can now correct this by bringing 4G and 5G back into the picture: global competitiveness and safety are at stake,” said Lise Fuhr, director general of telecoms lobbying group ETNO.

The last hurdle for the plan is the European Council where opponents would require a blocking majority to overturn the proposal. There are no details as of yet on when the Council will decide.