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Why is there now a V at the end of LTE? Explaining LTE-V

LTE-V

The telecoms industry is never short of a new acronym. At the moment, it loves adding extra letters to LTE to help explain a new use case.

Orange and Ericsson have just announced a partnership including PSA Group, the French automaker behind Peugeot and Citroёn, to make some serious progress in the connected cars game. Right now it’s exploring LTE infrastructures jazzed up with a splash of NFV, in the future it wants 5G – obviously, everybody does. But in the medium-term the Towards 5G connected cars partnership wants to use an evolved form of LTE known as LTE-V.

As hinted to at the start of this piece, the telecoms industry loves chucking new letters on to the end of LTE to make it mean something slightly different. We’ve had LTE-M (for ‘machines’ or IoT), LTE-U (as in ‘unlicensed spectrum’), LTE-A (for ‘advanced’) and now we’ve got LTE-V (for ‘vehicles’).

LTE-V is already being explored by a number of the industry’s megavendors. Huawei says it has been playing with it for some time, and rather vaguely defines LTE-V as the following:

“LTE-V makes urban transport safer and more efficient by allowing vehicle-vehicle, people-vehicle, and vehicle-network communications over the operators’ existing networks.”

OK so the example definition from Huawei doesn’t totally convince, but it does begin to help us understand how LTE-V sits in the current connected cars market. Principally, it appears as though LTE-V is the application of vehicular connectivity over existing operator mobile network infrastructure.

The key word in that sentence is ‘existing’. It means that by applying a little bit of cleverness (such as Ericsson’s NFV-enabled virtualized core and network slicing services used here), operators can repurpose existing infrastructure to perfectly fulfil the needs of a vehicular-driven cellular network, without having to completely build out a new one.

LTE-V is gaining traction, expectedly, as explained by Ericsson:

“The first wave of ITS (Intelligent Transport System) services can already be supported today by combining LTE for cellular access with ad-hoc connectivity between vehicles operating on ITS-designated spectrum at 5.9GHz.

“Our results indicate that LTE, based on Ericsson’s standardization proposals in 3GPP, can attain communication ranges that are twice as long compared to 802.11p, both in congested urban and high speed highway scenarios.”

Indeed, the 3GPP is incorporating vehicular-related standards for LTE in the upcoming Release 14. Supposedly LTE support for V2X services is one of the 30+ studies involved with Rel-14, but it refuses to go into further details in any of the Release specification documents available on the 3GPP website.

It would make sense for much of the discussion over vehicular LTE standardisation to revolve around using unlicensed spectrum. As Ericsson said, the majority of vehicular connectivity, and the services therein, will be running in the unlicensed 5.9 GHz band – so avoiding frequency interference or conflict with other services will be essential in a world of increasingly cluttered spectrum. Back in 2008 the European Commission did allocate a portion of the 5.9 GHz band for priority transport safety purposes, and for vehicle-to-vehicle use. However nearly a decade later and a variety of emergent V2V tech emerging, that ruling will likely require a revisit once the 3GPP completes work on Release 14.

One potential conflict to arise, however, will be how LTE-V competes or coexists with the IEEE’s 802.11p standard, which has until now been viewed as the de facto standard for ITS with standardisation efforts ongoing at ETSI.

Like a child with a new toy, LTE-V is grabbing the attention of major infrastructure providers, so the days could well be numbered for 802.11p before it gets consigned to the bottom of the toy box.

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