An AT&T technical director toldMobile World Live (MWL) the automotive sector had been one of the primary drivers for the build of its standalone (SA) 5G core, propelled by the need for improved network capabilities for autonomous vehicles.

David Storm, director member of technical staff, highlighted connected vehicles currently being manufactured required technology spanning up to 15 years to deliver continued improvements in customer experiences and capabilities.

AT&T had more than 55 million wholesale connected cars on its network at end-Q3. On its earnings call, CEO John Stankey apparently stated there was a “good opportunity for us to find the next level of growth in automotive”.

Storm explained AT&T wants to “get them on that next technology as quickly as possible”.

“This is probably one of the few times where we’re actively working to get them as a group of customers engaged as early adopters.”

While non-standalone 5G can enable some connected vehicle services and functions, a SA core creates more opportunities through APIs and SDKs.

Cloud-native, microservice based SA 5G cores are expected to push the envelope of current LTE-based cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) applications, improving navigation and delivering AR services.

Storm cited a collaboration with General Motors (GM) to connect millions of vehicles to AT&T’s 5G network by 2024, which employs Microsoft Azure cloud connectivity to deliver services from the network edge.

GM recently began testing dynamic API control for traffic classification to enable safety services by providing details of the type of network available and the level of latency each feature needs.

The network also needs the ability to gather information from the service on the fly.

Sherry McCaughan, VP of mobility core and network services at AT&T, told MWL how “you treat that those packets on the network is very different”.

Storm noted a lot of work remained to enable fully autonomous vehicles including adding more controls into the SA 5G core with APIs, and building more edge zones to provide more dynamic control over quality of service for customers.

McCaughan stated open APIs would also enable the application developer to talk to the network to understand where the users are located to put content closer to them.

“We want to move the customer to new core edge locations and the application will need to move as well,” she stated. “The application owners can have their content in multiple locations and move with the customer accordingly.”

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