During a mobile communications conference earlier this week, General Motors announced that it will team up with AT&T to offer 4G connectivity in “most” of the autos it sells in North America in 2014.
GM was an early adopter of Internet connectivity. In 1995, the automaker teamed up with Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Electronics Corporation to develop the OnStar subscription-based communications system.
The automaker now plans to expand its infotainment options by combining AT&T’s 4G LTE wireless service. The new service will essentially transform GM’s vehicles into WiFi hotspots on wheels
President of General Motors’ Global Connected Consumer business unit Mary Chan says, “In addition to allowing consumers to bring in and connect to personal mobile devices, the vehicle will also act as its own mobile device, enabling embedded vehicle capabilities. Turning this vision into a reality starts with enabling fast, reliable and responsive connectivity within the vehicle. Through this built-in 4G LTE connection we have the opportunity to reinvent the mobile experience inside a vehicle.”
Other automakers, most notably Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand, also offer broadband capabilities. The Audi A7 and A8 sedans are equipped with a real-time navigation system that employs Google images in addition to WiFi hotspot capabilities.
Fiat AG-controlled Chrysler Group LLC is partnering with Sprint to enhance its Uconnect technology.
In the past, GM’s OnStar service has been provided through one of AT&T’s major competitors, Verizon and its significantly slower 2G network. The GM / AT&T venture will offer motorists data speeds of up to 10 times faster than 3G wireless technology, but it will also require a massive expansion of AT&T’s network in order to provide adequate access to the service.
President and CEO of AT&T Mobility Ralph de la Vega says, “Introducing 4G LTE into GM vehicles is a game-changing opportunity. We’re working closely with GM to grow the connected car base, and provide unique and relevant services that will improve the connected experience inside automobiles for both drivers and passengers.”
In addition to enhancing the personal communications and entertainment experience, the new 4G technology will simplify the routine maintenance process for the automaker and its customers.
During a conference call last year, GM CEO Dan Akerson said, “We will literally start downloading maintenance and updates on equipment (in) vehicles that we used to have to bring in.”