Light Reading

Volvo: AT&T HSPA+ Can Drive My Car

Sarah Thomas
4/16/2014
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AT&T is quickly becoming the carmakers' connectivity provider of choice. The carrier said on Wednesday it has added another carmaker, Volvo, to its roster of connected car partners.

The two have signed a multi-year agreement that will see Volvo embed AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) HSPA+ connectivity in new Volvos in the US and Canada via its Single SIM platform. AT&T will power Sensus Connect, Volvo's embedded infotainment service built with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), as well as Volvo On Call for remote access to car functions and emergency crash notifications.

Volvo didn't say how it will charge for the connectivity, but its Sensus Connect service has traditionally been offered free for 12 months with a new Volvo, followed by a subscription fee. The pair expects cars with the embedded wireless to be available this summer.

Why this matters
The connected car arena is becoming a hotly contested space for telematics, and AT&T is emerging as a front-runner. It also has a deal in place with Audi, GM, and Tesla and recently opened a dedicated facility for carmakers to explore the possibilities with connectivity.

The question it's working to answer now is how much consumers will pay for connectivity in the car. The carrier is testing a subscription model with Audi, but recent Heavy Reading research suggests consumers are reluctant to pay more money for connectivity on the road. (See Finding the Value in Transportation Telematics.)

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/18/2014 | 11:33:04 AM
Re: competing interests
AT&T and Verizon will ber sure to charge a per-device connection fee (like they do for tablets, smartphones, and hotspots), so yeah -- I see no point in giving AT&T or Verizon another $30 to $40 (whatever they ultimately charge you to have it pull from your data plan) when I'm already paying them so much each month.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
4/18/2014 | 11:30:27 AM
Re: competing interests
That's good to hear. I suppose you wouldn't be streaming videos while you drive (I hope) so GPS and music are the two main bandwidth hogs. 

There are some trade-offs as you mention, but I think that may be worth it versus the expense of having that integration.
KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/18/2014 | 11:25:23 AM
Re: competing interests
Really not that bad, honestly. Though I already have a 4GB LTE data plan shared among three people. The majority of the streaming is Pandora, which isn't that big of a bandwidth eater -- the in-car GPS doesn't use data, and traffic is delivered via HD radio. I suppose much tighter Google intergation would eat more data; that's the one downside of this particular system -- you still wind up looking up addresses on the phone to then plug into the GPS because it's faster.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
4/18/2014 | 11:20:00 AM
Re: competing interests
I think a lot of more tech-savvy people will agree with you. How did the in-car use affect your data usage though? Seems like you could reach the cap pretty quickly.
KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/18/2014 | 8:56:00 AM
Re: competing interests
I really don't see the need for an additional LTE or HSPA+ radio when you can just  tether your existing data connection to most cars. While so many GUI's have been clunky, I've tried the new Mazda 3 "infotainment" system and have been very impressed with how easy it is to use and connect to my existing LTE subscription. The touchscreen doesn't work in motion, but you can you a "commander knob" to select things while driving. Works great; simply don't see the need to pay AT&T an additional fee....
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/17/2014 | 3:10:23 PM
Re: LTE v HSPA+
Sarah - "I would just walk everywhere if I lived in the SoCal sunshine. I don't know what's that like anymore."

My preference would be to walk too, but it can be time-consuming. For example, I frequently go to conferences at the San Diego Convention Center. Google Maps says that's 22 minutes by car (I like to leave 45 minutes), 1 hour on public transit, and 3.5 hours on foot.

Fun walk to do one day, but not when I have to cover a telecom conference there for Light Reading. Not unless I want to start walking about 4 in the morning. 

"But my parents, who do drive, bought a car that was supposed to have a great nav system, but the typeface was so small, they couldn't read it. Seems like they need to fix some of the basics like that before they get too fancy."

Complaints like that are common among customers, and a big obstacle to the adoption of connected vehicles. Customers prefer their phone apps to the apps in the car. 

Also, there's the matter of upgrade cycles: Early adopters upgrade phones ever two years. Cars used to have that kind of upgrade cycle for affluent people -- doctors and lawyers bought new Cadillacs every two years. But I don't see that as the case anymore. 
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
4/17/2014 | 2:46:49 PM
Re: LTE v HSPA+
I would just walk everywhere if I lived in the SoCal sunshine. I don't know what's that like anymore.

But my parents, who do drive, bought a car that was supposed to have a great nav system, but the typeface was so small, they couldn't read it. Seems like they need to fix some of the basics like that before they get too fancy. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/17/2014 | 2:41:08 PM
Re: LTE v HSPA+
Yeah, I'd rather have good public transit and just use my iPhone. But one of the few downsides of living in Southern California is that it's a car culture all the way. 
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
4/17/2014 | 12:33:43 PM
competing interests
I've been on the phone with AT&T all morning trying to change or cancel my U-Verse service, and it's amusing that they end every call with "please don't text and drive." It's a noble campaign, but texting isn't the only distracting thing you can do in the car...Maybe they should change it, "please buy LTE service in your car, but don't use it for most of the advertised purposes."
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
4/17/2014 | 12:33:41 PM
competing interests
I've been on the phone with AT&T all morning trying to change or cancel my U-Verse service, and it's amusing that they end every call with "please don't text and drive." It's a noble campaign, but texting isn't the only distracting thing you can do in the car...Maybe they should change it, "please buy LTE service in your car, but don't use it for most of the advertised purposes."
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