Mobile service providers are turning to automakers and connected cars systems to fuel 5G deployment in hopes of generating new revenue streams, recent trends observable during the latest iteration of Mobile World Congress (MWC) suggest. As the global smartphone market is getting increasingly saturated, wireless carriers are facing issues with driving growth and are turning to new business endeavors to diversify their operations and make them less reliant on the phone industry. In the West, some mobile carriers turned to acquiring media companies like AT&T did with DirecTV and is now trying to do with Time Warner, but another potentially lucrative market is that for connected car systems, industry watchers say.
As relying on connecting people — most of whom already own a smartphone — isn't as effective as it used to be, mobile service providers are now looking to connect cars. MWC 2017 serves as a strong indication of that emerging trend seeing how this year's Barcelona-based trade show was attended by a surprisingly high number of automakers like Peugeot, Ford, and BMW. As neither wearables nor tablets proved to be a reliable beacon for selling more connectivity solutions, wireless carriers and chipset manufacturers have now turned to the automotive industry in hopes of integrating their solutions into both existing and future vehicles. From autonomous driving technologies to personalized entertainment systems incorporated into taxi services, MWC 2017 was full of examples of cars enhanced with contemporary Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
Providing idle passengers in self-driving cars with IoT-powered entertainment is just a smaller part of the vision wireless carriers have in mind for the vehicles of the future. Autonomous cars are expected to communicate with the cloud and other vehicles in order to share data on road conditions and traffic that will feed their critical systems. It's therefore imperative that self-driving vehicles always have Internet access, which is one of the arguments that mobile service providers are using when calling for government subsidies and reduced spectrum costs, all with the goal of facilitating 5G deployment. Time will tell whether that strategy will prove to be effective, but as things stand right now, wireless carriers seem certain that the automotive industry will be the one to help them create new revenue streams and continue growing in the future.