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How 5G Will Impact Older Cars

3 min read
With the rapid progress of the Internet and communication connectivity, new cars are becoming outfitted with more attractive gadgets. But unlike smartphone users, most drivers are unlikely to upgrade to a new car every year or two. What are the issues facing drivers of older cars as devices in their vehicles quickly become obsolete?

Technology doesn’t stand still, and that’s true for cellular networks. With each passing breakthrough, our networks are getting faster and better, retiring outdated technology from the past. While 3G looks to have finished its run, and 4G is still somewhat relevant, the spotlight is most definitely on 5G. This is especially so in Singapore, where 5G networks are being rolled out progressively, with the goal being to provide full 5G coverage to at least half of the country by the end of 2022.

5G’s potential to rapidly increase data speed and digital devices is all great news; but, to do that, older 3G networks have to be shut down to free up much needed bandwidth for the new system. And that means everything running on 3G networks will not run anymore. This includes devices such as cell phones and tablets and — yes — even those items installed in cars!

It may be surprising to know that car models that hit the market as recently as three to four years ago could be affected should 3G be shut down. Companies that run commercial fleets may find themselves in a bind if they are especially reliant on 3G-based service communication, specifically telematics. 3G-embedded telematics use technologies such as GPS tracking, systems monitoring, and onboard diagnostics to wirelessly monitor and control a vehicle.Some car owners could find themselves losing the ability to update their location and traffic, or be unable to connect to the smartphone or enjoy certain infotainment and convenience features, such as real-time navigation and voice-assisted services. Some cars will also lose the stolen vehicle locator feature and automatic collision notification; others could lose automatic response services, which are crucial in the event of a crash.

In response to this, car manufacturers are offering solutions to help their customers cope. Some, like Tesla, are issuing software and hardware updates to help their customers. While Tesla is doing some for free, there are certain updates that still require some form of payment.

Meanwhile, other car brands will discontinue affected services or require customers to enrol in subscription-based updates. Stellantis, the company that owns several reputable car brands such as Fiat, Jeep and Maserati, will allow owners of certain vehicles that are affected to upgrade their system to 4G, paying a monthly fee of either $10 for 2GB of data or $30 for unlimited data to maintain some remote services, although automatic crash notification and SOS will no longer be available.

There is no doubt that a 3G-equipped car will still work even with the 3G network phased out. However, for drivers who bought their car, there is the expectation that they’ll want to enjoy all features that come with the car. Losing the 3G-enabled features — which could have been the owners’ deciding purchasing factor — will make them feel a sense of injustice.