Connected Car – All That Data – Cost and Impact on the Network

February 22, 2019 - 1 Comment

In the previous blog, we looked at the Connected vehicle of tomorrow, at the services that are coming and their data volumes. In this final post, we’re going to take a look at the cost of data and how the financial model will affect manufacturer’s thinking. It will also consider what the impact of connected cars will be on cellular networks in the future.

What’s the cost?

It will be tempting to gather more and more data from the vehicle. However, as the volumes increase, the costs associated with its transmission will become increasingly important, requiring vehicle manufacturers to determine who values the data and what the value of the data is. If the value is derived by the owner/user, it is likely that they will be expected to pay. If the value is to the vehicle manufacturer, then the manufacturer will pay.

It is likely that there will be a set of data that manufacturers will want while the vehicle is in motion, such as vehicle telemetry and another set of data that can be recorded to local storage, such as processed sensor data. This can then be gathered at a later point in time – possibly using a WiFi or an Ethernet connection. If the information’s value is not time-sensitive, it could be gathered when the vehicle is next serviced, assuming that there is sufficient storage capacity within the vehicle.

One example of ‘valuable’ data may come from vehicle insurance. In the case of an accident, it would be valuable to combine vehicle telemetry with camera images and Lidar plots from the period in time just before the accident.

The cost point of cellular connectivity may drive manufacturers to make a series of decisions:

  • Is the data valuable to the manufacturer? If not, potentially discard.
  • Is the data required while the vehicle is in motion? Use cellular.
  • Can the data be obtained while the vehicle is stationary? Is the data’s value time-sensitive? Choose the most cost-effective path given the available networks, and the amount of data to transmit. This may not be exclusively cellular, it may be WiFi or Ethernet. Additionally, the option may be to store the data locally for collection by a technician.

To illustrate the point, we can use the data projections in conjunction with cost per GB from a range of operators. Such reports highlight the extremes in price that vehicle manufacturers will encounter across the various markets where their vehicles are present.

Alongside the cost of transmission are further costs factors that will need to be considered. Can the data be processed cost-effectively within the vehicle or is it cheaper for the data to be processed remotely? How long must the data be retained for legal and audit purposes? Is it more cost-effective to store the information within the vehicle or stored remotely?


The volumes of data being transmitted to and from Connected vehicles will rise rapidly with global production approaching 25 million new vehicles per year and all vehicle forecast to be ‘connected’ by 2025. With such vehicles being sold world-wide, the impact of communication networks will be seen in all of the major markets.

How will the Connected vehicle compare to the typical smartphone user? According to a 2018 report, monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone in North America will rise to 50GB (1.6GB per day) by the end of 2024. With a 2023 Connected Car transferring ~8GB per day, the data volume from vehicles will rapidly outstrip that of smartphones.

Looking back the 4TB figure, to put this context, if all of the projected data volume were to be transmitted from the vehicle, it would put considerable stress on the communications network infrastructure, since one autonomous vehicle would be generating as much data at 2500 smartphones.


As these blog posts have illustrated, Connected vehicles will generate significant volumes of data but:

  1. Most of the data will be consumed within the vehicle
  2. Only a ‘valuable’ subset of the data will be transmitted
  3. The volume is very unlikely to be anywhere near the 4TB figure initially suggested

If the figure were to be closer to 1TB, today’s cellular technology would not be able to support the volume. 5G networks are essentially engineered with very similar dimensioning rules and therefore will also be unable to cope, despite the increased bandwidth.

Today’s cellular networks are able to support the relatively small duty-cycle data volume. As Connected vehicles become increasingly prevalent and the duty-cycle data volumes increase towards the volumes projected in this paper, the cellular network operators and vehicle manufacturers will have to think how to support cost-effective deployments at a global scale.

5G networks bring increased bandwidth which will be required in order to support such deployments. Data from vehicles will pass over multiple access mechanisms, all of which will need to be managed in a heterogeneous way into a 5G network slice. Furthermore, there is the opportunity for collaboration between service providers and vehicle manufacturers with respect to the way network slices and the services within the slice will be contracted, operated and monitored.

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  1. Loved reading your blog. The data volumes are staggering, and what no one appears to be thinking about is the energy cost of shifting all that traffic. There's no Moores law for comms! 5G is significantly more energy efficient than 4G, but that's only part of the equation. Even if only 1% of the C-AV generated data is offloaded, (which the network could in theory cope with) it will push up the telecoms sector share of electricity generation significantly from today's draw, and this isn't sustainable.