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GM adding tiered 4G data plans to 'most' 2015 models

High-speed mobile broadband modems will be embedded in 2015 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles to bring enhanced features and services.

By Douglas Newcomb Feb 25, 2013 2:41PM

GM’s connected-car plans will soon hit high velocity thanks to an embedded AT&T 4G LTE mobile broadband modem.

This means that owners of new GM vehicles will get much faster data speeds for safety and convenience features as well as a more future-proof infotainment system. It also means that Verizon will be phased out as GM’s longtime wireless partner.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, GM announced a partnership with AT&T to bring the wireless carrier’s 4G LTE connectivity to most 2015 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles for sale in the U.S. and Canada by next year. 4G LTE is designed to deliver mobile data speeds up to 10 times faster than a 3G connection and can support simultaneous voice and data transfers.

GM said that 4G capability will bring enhanced features and services into the car, including creating an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot, allow streaming video for back-seat passengers, encourage faster development of in-dash applications and foster over-the-air software updates. It will also provide faster response for the safety features and services of GM’s OnStar telematics system.

In a press release, the automaker said that these “enhancements build on OnStar’s existing portfolio of built-in connected services, first introduced in GM vehicles in 1996.” Since that time, the in-vehicle connection has been provided by Verizon, but after 2014 that will no longer be the case.

Greg Ross, director of business development and strategic alliances for GM’s Global Connected Consumer division, told MSN Autos that Verizon will continue to support existing OnStar connectivity and that GM will continue to support existing car owners who have an OnStar modem that connects to Verizon’s network. But starting with 2015 model-year vehicles, all connectivity will be through AT&T's 4G LTE network.

GM hasn’t announced pricing for the high-speed 4G connectivity. “We’re still putting that together with AT&T: how to price it and how to put together packages that are appropriate for in-car use,” Ross said. He added that there will likely be tiered data plans similar to those offered on smartphone contracts.

“We expect that some will use higher bandwidth, such as streaming video, and they’ll need larger data packages,” Ross said. “Others will just need enough data to do things like traffic updates that are low bandwidth.”

Ross hinted that data plans could be built into the vehicle's price and that buyers would be able to pick and pay for features after taking the car home. “Once we have 4G capability, we’ll able to deliver every car with applications, and customers can sample them the first couple of months after they take delivery of the car,” Ross said. “They can find a package that works for them."

But there's a potential hurdle. Many car owners don't want to pay a separate data plan for their vehicles when they already have one (or more) for other mobile devices. However, AT&T and other wireless competitors have recently unveiled shared-data plans that could work perfectly for a car. “With a partner like AT&T, it’s a natural to offer customers to add the car to their share plans,” Ross said. "But nothing has been finalized yet.”

GM’s connected infotainment systems, such as Chevy MyLink and Buick IntelliLink, currently rely on a connected smartphone for in-dash apps. Even by adding an embedded modem to the car, these systems will continue to support smartphone tethering, Ross said. “If customers prefer to use their own smartphone or data plan, that will be available,” he said.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, GM announced a new app development platform to boost the market for in-car apps. Most developers have been reluctant to write apps for a few select car models when compared to the millions of smartphone users who regularly purchase apps on the Apple and Android stores. Ross said that GM's new app development initiative and the rollout of 4G connectivity go together.

“We announced the application framework, which comes out this year,” he said. “But following it up with a built-in 4G connection makes us an even more attractive platform to app development partners. We can say that every GM car can be delivered with a connection that can take advantage of your application.”

And the 4G capability won’t just be available from AT&T in the U.S. “It’s our intent to make this available globally,” Ross said. “With GM’s global volumes, we’ll have a great base of vehicles for developers.”

AT&T's 4G connectivity could also make GM’s infotainment systems more future-proof. Ross said that over-the-air updates using the higher-speed connection are “something we’re looking at."

"So when the next great streaming music service comes out in two years,” he said, “you’ll be able to add that to the car and we can make it available at any time.”

GM and AT&T 4G LTE. Image by GM.[Source: GM]

Feb 26, 2013 6:04AM

Remember, this kind of connectivity is a two-way street.  As long as you don't mind big brother knowing your every move as well as what you download feel free to begin sharing when you purchase a GM product.  I think I will pass on it.

Feb 26, 2013 6:05AM
Does this mean that GM will also act as your IT person? Will big brother be able to monitor your moves while using "their" computers? So GM, aka Obama, will now be monitoring your internet use, your OnStar use and your traveling habits via the black box. That computer will no doubt be able to let our Chief in command know where your are at all times. No thanks to GM, and Obama. Oh, and don't forget, he will now also know every prescription that you take and every little detail about your health and how HE will decide to treat your problems.
  Still in shock that sooo many fools put this guy back in office.
Feb 25, 2013 4:13PM
Good job GM (sarcasm)! Just when I was considering the new SS, they go and squash my hopes. Let's take one of the largest, and most unreliable, carriers in the US and build our product around them. Looks like there will not be any GM products in my future.
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