Infotainment supplier Harman has leveraged the influence of its parent Samsung to win contracts it says will make it the largest automotive supplier of 5G connectivity globally by 2022.
BMW will use technology from Harman and Samsung to offer what it says will be the first 5G-capable car in June 2021 with the iNext electric SUV, BMW said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.
"It will bring new opportunities for the driver in the car, but it will also impact the entire mobility system," said BMW's development chief Klaus Froehlich. BMW has sold 14 million connected cars since 2004, he said.
A connected car is one with on-board telematics system that can link to services outside the car via a SIM card, much like a mobile phone. The 5G network is poised to replace the current 4G network within the next few years globally.
The switch will allow automakers to offer more services in the car as well as improve safety systems, including paving the way for full autonomy.
"You have two tracker points for 5G. First one is bandwidth for normal applications, but the main trigger point is latency [speed]," said Mike Peters, Harman's connected car head.
Faster speeds will unlock V2X (Vehicle to Everything) communications that can prevent collisions by transmitting the car's location to infrastructure, other cars and pedestrians. It will also deliver higher definition mapping needed for more autonomous vehicles.
"All cars launching in 2021 and beyond without 5G can't be as autonomous as they'd like to be," Peters said.
BMW has said the iNext will launch with Level 3 autonomy, allowing for hands-off driving at speeds of up to 129 kph (80 mph) on multi-lane highways, providing legislation will permit it.
BMW will also test Level 4 autonomy using a fleet of iNext cars.
Harman is the Tier 1 supplier for the telematics control unit in the car, while parent Samsung supplies the chipsets.
Harman's long history supplying BMW, as well as Samsung's ownership, helped clinch the deal.
"Harman is one of our main suppliers within our head unit, and having Samsung helped," James Mallinson, BMW's head of vehicle connectivity, told Automotive News Europe.
Harman has also secured what it describes as the biggest 5G telematics deal ever with an unnamed European automaker that will help give it the global telematics leadership by 2022, beating Continental and LG, it said.
The contact will enable V2X communication with the cars.
The Samsung connection again helped. "We basically won because of Samsung," Peters said. "It's partly about stability. Samsung is a $250 billion company, so they know we'll there in perpetuity for the roll-out."
Harman has contracts with automakers to supply "5G-ready" telematics units into new cars starting in 2021 that will allow owners to switch 5G capability the moment the networks become usable. The customer will pay to activate the capability, providing additional revenue to the automaker.
BMW will offer 5G as an option in its iNext, BMW's Mallinson said.
Customers will also have the ability to connect their 5G-enabled phone to a 'mirror-SIM' in the roof-mounted telematics control unit and improve the signal. The phone could then be used to act as a Wi-Fi unit to other handheld devices in the car, using the same data plan.
Europe is slowly expanding 5G but is likely to be beaten by Asia to become first in establishing full networks, BMW and Harman predict.
BMW's Mallinson believes Europe could get there by 2023 but says iNext customers will still benefit. "We are pretty confident of 5G networks certainly on motorway when we come in 2021," he said.