How 5G can support new concepts in public transport

The world’s transport systems could become a major consumer of 5G services, to support both remote monitoring and control of vehicles.

5G transport services


Alongside the road closures, bike sharing and electrification, another potentially even more significant trend is underway – the lines between public and private transport are beginning to blur to make more efficient use of the available space and people’s time. This trend is apparent in the way in which Google Maps’ directions features now blends ride-hailing and public transport services.

There is a widespread view among transport experts that most people will ultimately want to buy mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) – the notion that an individual should pay-as-they-go to access multiple modes of transport. Analogous to cloud computing, rather than spending a large amount of money upfront, the buyer would just pay for what they need, as and when they need it. As well as potentially being more cost-effective and flexible, mobility-as-a-service could discourage solo journeys in a car, by making the cost of such a choice more transparent. This is a key area of focus for Uber, which says it is partnering with more than 50 governments to “extend the reach of public transit” and develop on-demand services.

Different individuals are prepared to make different trade-offs. Whereas one person may regard a 15-minute walk to a train station as acceptable, another may regard that as an insurmountable obstacle. Recognising that, the ideal transport system will be flexible, giving people a choice for each journey that fully reflects the financial and environmental costs of the different options. As working patterns change in the wake of the pandemic, people are less likely to go into an office five days a week. That makes buying a season ticket for train journeys (or a vehicle specifically for commuting) less appealing.

At the same time, there are many people who still have to travel to work every day and may value a subscription that will allow them unlimited usage of local services, such as buses, trams, shared bikes and scooters, and local trains. The subscription could also include a set number of taxi journeys a month to cover those occasions when public transport is delayed or the passenger has missed a train or bus.

Our report How telcos can provide a tonic for transport examines the role of connectivity in other potentially-disruptive transport propositions, such as remotely controlled hire cars, passenger drones and flying cars, which could emerge over the next decade. It builds on previous STL Partners research including: