Mobile broadband has been gradually developing since the end of the 1990s. There are a number of variants: 2G, 3G and now 4G, which is the latest technology in use. 4G is optimised for sending data, and the earlier technologies are optimised for telephony use (voice communication). AstaZero is the first test track in the world to have a 4G network on site at the facility.
– Previously we used WiFi to communicate between our test vehicles when testing on the track. WiFi has limited range and can be subject to delays that vary with the distance in question. This was why we went for 4G. Now we can move anywhere on AstaZero and still remain connected. Before, we used to lose contact with vehicles if they were more than 500 metres apart. 4G is also a more stable connection compared to our previous solution, says Håkan Andersson, Test Manager at AstaZero.
AstaZero, the world’s first full-scale test environment for future road safety, has now been in operation for around two years. To continue to be at the cutting edge, new technology must be developed, tested and evaluated on a regular basis. Using the 4G communication solution allows AstaZero to strengthen its position in the world.
– Mainly because we are the first ones to get it to work. All test tracks use some kind of WiFi solution. Clearly it is a system solution that strengthens the company’s position on the world market, says Håkan.
The 4G network has the potential for gaining AstaZero access to new markets, but the main aim at the start was to achieve secure and stable communication across the entire facility. New markets may initially be companies that develop communications solutions for the automotive industry and infrastructure. It will involve research, development and probably certification of products that allow increased safety when vehicles and infrastructure start sharing information between them. Subsequently there will be interest from companies that develop their own communication systems, as it will be possible to create realistic situations at AstaZero that subject the systems to the required amount of stress. An example of this is the simultaneous handling of safety-critical communication and bandwidth-greedy entertainment, such has Netflix onboard.
4G has been with us since 2009, but already there is talk of a fifth generation mobile network. Many large ICT companies, such as Ericsson and the Chinese Huawei, are already working intensively on its development, and operators such as the Russian MegaFon and TeliaSonera are hoping to have 5G networks up and running as soon as 2018.
– We are looking at whether we can also add a 5G network, but as yet we have nothing ready. The aim is to be the first to have that as well. The purpose of a 5G network will be to attract customers who work with communications solutions. But so far this is only in its infancy, says Håkan Andersson.
Pether Wallin, CEO AstaZero
Håkan Andersson, Test Manager, AstaZero