EU car wifi plan delayed as countries await legal advice

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission’s plan for a wifi-based standard for cars endorsed by Volkswagen faces a two-month delay as EU countries wait for legal advice on the proposal, giving a glimmer of hope to backers of the rival 5G technology.

Envoys from the 28 EU countries met on Wednesday and agreed to extend their review of the Commission’s plan by two months after 15 countries asked for more time to allow the EU Council’s lawyers to examine the issue, people familiar with the matter said.

The extension will kick in on May 13 following formal approval by EU countries on that day. The delay is not expected to derail the Commission’s proposal, with only Spain and Finland expressing concerns.

Internet connected cars are expected to generate billions of euros in revenue for carmakers, telecoms operators and equipment makers once the market takes off.

Last month EU lawmakers gave the thumbs up to a wifi-based standard, which primarily connects cars to other cars. Supporters include Renault, Toyota, NXP, Autotalks and Kapsch TrafficCom.

Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung are lobbying for the 5G standard which hooks up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, and has a bigger range of applications.

Mobile telecoms operators lobbying group GSMA said there were a number of disputed points in the Commission’s proposal.

“We expect the Council legal service (CLS) to be critical about this piece of legislation as it lays down a de facto mandate for wifi whereas the Commission should remain technology neutral,” Joop Hazenberg, GSMA’s director, said.

“There are also other strong doubts of the CLS on the Delegated Act, such as the Commission giving itself powers it does not have.”

The Commission’s proposal can only be overturned with a blocking majority of EU countries.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Doug Busvine in Frankfurt; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise