Light Reading

AT&T Makes GM Cars a Data Plan Add-On

Sarah Thomas
5/12/2014
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Your car could soon be just another "device" on your Mobile Share plan, if you're an AT&T customer and happen to own a GM vehicle.

The carrier announced on Monday that it would soon begin supporting LTE on select GM cars as a $10 add-on to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Mobile Share data plans. That's the same cost as a smartphone or a tablet addition, and it'll give drivers 200 MBytes of additional data.

If more data is needed, which will likely be the case with the intensive apps that will run in the car, customers can opt to select from a range of plans including $20 for 1 GB of data, $30 for 3 GB, or $50 for 5 GB.

GM is running the service through its OnStar service, which turns the car into a WiFi hotspot capable of connecting up to seven devices. OnStar customers will get a three-month free trial with LTE and then have the option to sign up for a new plan, with a $5 discount on the 200 MB or 1GB plan. Or, as further options, GM is also letting drivers buy day passes of 250 MB for $5 or a year's worth of data at 10 GB per month for $200 -- $150 if you're an OnStar customer.

The connectivity option will first be available on the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu, followed by more than 30 other Chevy, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC models before the end of the year.

Why this matters
In-car connectivity is still a relatively new market, and AT&T is emerging as the market leader in bringing LTE to the open road. Its business model has been a question mark, but it's clear the carrier is willing to experiment with all kinds of options to see what sticks. With Audi, it's offering data plans in six-month or 30-month increments, betting that customers don't want to deal with it every month. With GM, it looks as if anything goes. What consumers opt for, if anything, once a free trial is up, will be good learnings for the entire machine-to-machine communications market.

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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denzer900
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denzer900,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/13/2014 | 3:09:30 PM
Re: Can cars share?
Got that right. Question is who is the chip supplier to GM ?
Atlantis-dude
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Atlantis-dude,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/13/2014 | 2:08:04 PM
WiFi Hotspot/Tether
It certainly simplifies. The question is whether the pricing is right.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/13/2014 | 8:46:02 AM
Re: Can cars share?
@Sarah I'm with you on that. I like to just be set and forget about it. With our home phone, we had a limit that my daughter started to exceed every month, sometimes doubling our phone bill. So we upgraded to unlimited. 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/13/2014 | 8:41:15 AM
Re: I like Tesla's wireless plan better...
@mhhf1ve speaking of Tesla, I just heard this morning that Toyota is dropping its partnership with the electric car producer in favor of exploring hydrogen fuel cells. I don't know if that will have any impact on AT&T's business, though. 
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2014 | 9:04:56 PM
I like Tesla's wireless plan better...
I think Tesla also uses AT&T for its cars.. but the mobile plan is included with the car. I guess that's what you get when your car costs >$100K..?
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2014 | 4:16:49 PM
Can cars share?
My concern with putting my car on my family plan is that it would eat up all the data so fast that no one else could get any. I think I'd prefer to pay all at once for a year or just bundle it in with the car purchase and forget about it.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2014 | 4:14:57 PM
Money sticks
This is kind of what I don't like about first-gen "connected car" initiatives so far as a consumer: They feel like cynical money grabs (a.k.a. ancillary revenue streams) with not much else behind them. I really don't need to pay the automaker or a mobile carrier extra for stuff I can already get with my phone.
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