Saturday, September 28, 2013

4G cars are coming, but we won’t have much choice in how we connect them

Gigaom - Soon we’ll be able to connect our cars directly to the mobile internet just like our smartphones, but unlike your smartphone your new car is going to be linked to a specific carrier.

4G cars are making their way to the U.S., starting first with the Audi A3 and eventually a whole fleet of GM vehicles. Embedded LTE could soon be streaming music to our dashboards, providing real-time traffic alerts to our nav systems and downloading Thomas the Tank Engine reruns for Junior to watch in his car seat.

The car will become a new type of connected device like our smartphones and tablets, and like those gadgets our 4G cars will require data plans. But unlike the smartphone and tablet, we’re not going to have a choice on what carrier we buy those plans from. It might seem absurd, but in the U.S. our 4G cars are going to be linked to a specific carrier, just as the first three generations of iPhones were tied to AT&T.

That’s the opposite approach to what automakers are doing in Europe. The Audi S3 debuted in Europe with a distinctly European mobile connectivity model. A slot in the dash will take any carrier’s SIM card, and the Gemalto machine-to-machine communications model embedded in Audis supports multiple European GSM, HSPA and LTE bands. You can thank Europe’s coordinated approach to mobility for that flexibility — a single module can cover almost every carrier’s network in almost every country on the continent.   More