Roaming is something most encounter when you take your mobile phone on travel, abroad or across country. Today, we expect to be able to call from most countries with no problems, and in recent years, for a reasonable price. In the start of the mobile phone era, this was not the case: In the early days of mobile phones, you were restricted to use the network that sold you the phone and subscription.
Most of the technical specs for todays’ phones were pioneered in during the 70s, and in 1982 the first GSM specifications (now called 2G, as it replaced the previous NMT and AMPS networks) were proposed and ratified in 1987 Europe. From that time to the early 2000s different 1G and 2G networks competed for customers and even though the 3G specifications were decided upon in the late 90s, it was only in the 2000s that we saw roaming work. With 4G after 2010 roaming became something we took for granted.
This means that it took almost 30 years from the early days of GSM to seamless roaming!
For EV charging, 30 years is a long time. Most of the reports on EV infrastructure start in 2014 and today EU has about 175.000 charging points, with at least 69 different companies operating them and an ambition to come to 1.3 million points in 2025 and 2.9 in 2030. In addition, we have CCS as a charge port standard in Europe, but with an existing fleet of ChaDeMo, Type 2 and other charge port needs to cover, one cannot simply build out with one charger type and cover the market. Add in component scarcity, sometimes delaying charge point builds with 6-8 months, and you get the picture.
There are some real obstacles in the way.
Luckily, there are some good initiatives as well.
First, most charge point operators (CPO) will let you roam within their network. So, if you use a specific CPO for your work garage or communal garage, you will often have access to that CPOs many other open charge points. Let us call this 1G.
Secondly, some CPOs are teaming up to give you a broader base to roam with. Usually within a country. We can call this 2G.
As mentioned above, it was with 3G roaming became a priority and a necessity, due to the high number of users. In the EV industry, there are several initiatives for this in Europe: We have an initiative to build an international roaming network from Hubject, and we have another angle to future standardization from Open Charge Alliance, OCCP. Let us call this effort 3G.
Today a CPO may buy partnership and offer roaming through this. But it will still be limited and not comparable to our mobile phone experience using 4G and 5G.
And it will add cost to the charging.
As mentioned initially, mobile phone roaming took 30 years, and EV charging has not been widely available for 10 yet. But the initiatives and the speed of change is at least twice that of the mobile phone, we already see the 3G solutions available.
So, there is hope for a 4G/5G solution in maybe 5 years’ time?