AT&T 4G LTE Connectivity Headed for Select 2015 Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC Models
Automakers increasingly are adding built-in internet connectivity to their four-wheeled wares, and now GM is joining the fray. The American juggernaut has announced plans to introduce embedded—as in, no phone required—AT&T 4G LTE service on select 2015 Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC models. The connected car might not be a new concept, but one wired to accept 4G LTE is, and will prove to be far quicker than the 3G T-Mobile service offered by Audi and 3G Sprint connection available with Chrysler’s Uconnect system.
GM is still working out the details, but it expects the embedded 4G service will allow for stuff like in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot capability, real-time traffic or vehicle updates, and video streaming for rear-seat entertainment systems. In fact, several of the proposed features were previewed (albeit future-fied) on a hypothetical future OnStar system powered by a Verizon 4G connection, which GM showed off at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
Which brings us to the AT&T connection’s relationship with GM’s OnStar telematics system—the connectivity will enhance OnStar, not replace it. The faster LTE connection means that OnStar representatives will simultaneously be able to shuffle data to the vehicle while talking to customers in their vehicle, something not possible on the telematics system’s mobile connection today. Currently, OnStar service is provided by Verizon; GM representatives have confirmed that won’t change for existing OnStar-using customers. Verizon will continue to provide a voice and data connection for pre-2015-model year OnStar-equipped vehicles, but GM will phase AT&T-powered OnStar into the lineup starting with 2015 models. It isn’t presently clear—and GM isn’t talking specifics yet—whether the 4G LTE service would be rolled into an OnStar subscription or be available independent of the telematics suite; we’re guessing it will be some variation of the former, especially since OnStar will run off of the new connection anyway.
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GM’s announcement represents something of a high-water mark for the development of the car-as-mobile-device concept. Higher data speeds hardwired (figuratively speaking—it is a wireless connection, after all) to the car itself opens the door for more in-car features and capabilities that go beyond the realm of mere infotainment. Many automakers’ infotainment systems have evolved to use customers’ phones for their data connections to run apps or download directions to the nav system (Ford with SYNC, Chrysler with Uconnect, and Kia’s UVO, for example), saving users the added cost of paying for data connection for their car. But if companies like GM can package a fast internet connection with features that add value beyond simply turning cars into rolling hotspots (something most smartphones can now do), it could re-vector the phone’s future in the car.