AT&T Takes Connected Car Plans to the Next Level at CES

by Jennifer Kent | Jan. 7, 2014

At Mobile World Congress last February, GM OnStar shook up the connected car market by switching its wireless connectivity provider from Verizon Wireless (Hughes Telematics)—its in-vehicle connectivity provider since the service’s launch in 1996—to AT&T. While Verizon will continue to support current vehicles already on the OnStar platform, the auto OEM chose AT&T as its provider of the future, connecting new models across AT&T’s 4G/LTE network. AT&T is building on this momentum at CES with several major announcements that again shift the connected car landscape.

First, AT&T scored another big deal – this time with Audi. Like the GM OnStar deal, AT&T will provide 4G/LTE connectivity for future Audi models, starting with the 2015 A3. For the past several years, the industry-leading Audi Connect service has been powered by T-Mobile’s 3G network; T-Mobile will continue to connect Audi Connect customers currently using the service. While T-Mobile has been aggressively rolling out its LTE network, AT&T’s lead over its fellow GSM-based carrier likely helped it to secure Audi’s business.

Second, AT&T announced a new connected car platform, AT&T Drive Platform, as well as a connected car innovation and testing lab, the Atlanta-based AT&T Drive Center. The Drive Platform allows AT&T to compete with Sprint’s Velocity Platform. The Drive Platform is customizable and modular – meaning auto makers have the flexibility to choose which features or services they would like to integrate into their models.  Though more details will inevitably be forthcoming, the Drive Platform supports at the very least global SIM provisioning, global billing, app store support, diagnostics solutions, and voice control/safe driving features. While auto OEMs can secure all of these services from several industry vendors, AT&T and Sprint are playing an integrator’s role, leveraging their connected car platforms as one-stop shops for in-vehicle connectivity.

Finally AT&T unveiled a new connected car business model: direct-to-consumer in-vehicle sharable mobile data plans. Essentially, AT&T has just added the car as simply one more connected device consumers can add to their data plans, drawing from one large “data bucket” regardless of whether the device is a smartphone, tablet, or now, their car. This simplicity will encourage consumers to trial in-vehicle connected services without having to commit to a separate auto-specific data plan. Additionally, by expanding the ecosystem of devices that may be connected on one bill, AT&T hopes to make its services even stickier, decreasing churn.

We’ll be looking for more connected car announcements from the other major wireless carriers as the show moves along, but with its big deals, new connectivity platform, and new consumer-facing pricing plans, AT&T is clearly standing apart from the pack.



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