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AI/Automation

GM commits to installing AT&T's 5G into millions of cars

General Motors said it plans to connect millions of its cars in the US to AT&T's 5G network in the years to come.

The automobile maker said the move would allow it to implement a number of improvements, including faster music and video downloads for motorists and faster, more reliable over-the-air software updates for its vehicles. The companies last year announced a WarnerMedia RIDE service that features content from AT&T's WarnerMedia content business.

"As an in-vehicle connectivity leader, this rollout demonstrates our commitment to growth through software-enabled services and reimagining every customer touchpoint by enabling faster connectivity speeds to power in-vehicle voice-enabled services, navigation and apps that our customers have grown to love," said Santiago Chamorro, GM's vice president of global connected services, in a release.

The companies said 5G would first be available in select GM 2024 vehicles. They also said GM models from 2019, those with 4G LTE, will enjoy many of the same benefits supported through 5G. "Current Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners in the U.S. with 4G LTE-capable model year 2019 and newer vehicles will easily migrate to the new network infrastructure once available," the companies said.

Another win for AT&T

The new agreement between the two behemoths essentially represents an extension of their initial deal around 4G LTE technology inked in 2014. That original agreement represented a seachange in the US wireless industry because, prior to that agreement, Verizon was the primary wireless partner for GM and its OnStar emergency roadside calling service.

Thanks to such agreements with GM, Ford and other automakers, AT&T has developed a substantial business around connected cars. The company recently told Light Reading it counts around 40 million connected cars on its network.

Moreover, those connections aren't staying quiet. For example, Ford recently announced a new program that will allow it to routinely update the software in its automobiles remotely, allowing the company to fix software bugs, improve motorists' experience and charge for extra services with the click of a button. The updates will be delivered to millions of Ford vehicles over AT&T's 4G LTE network – potentially generating new revenues for the operator if its agreement with Ford is based on the automaker's usage of AT&T's network.

GM and the future

As for AT&T's new agreement with GM, it essentially signals a vote of confidence by GM in AT&T's maturing 5G network. "GM and AT&T are collaborating to build a high performance 5G core network that delivers a new standard," the companies added in their release. AT&T also pointed to its recent work with Microsoft on its 5G core network operations.

It's also worth noting that AT&T is poised to dramatically improve its 5G network in the coming years, following its plan to exit from the content and video industry in order to focus more heavily on its telecom services. The operator earlier this year purchased billions of dollars worth of new midband spectrum for 5G, and plans to spend billions of additional dollars putting that spectrum to use over the next few years. The efforts likely will allow AT&T to dramatically improve the speed and performance of its 5G network.

Thus, via its new deal with GM, AT&T stands to benefit from more cars on its network potentially consuming more data at faster speeds. Indeed, TechCrunch reported that connectivity remains critical to most automakers' strategies considering over-the-air software updates could improve everything from autonomous driving services to electric vehicle battery operations. GM already offers an autonomous driving option called Super Cruise that's essentially its answer to Tesla's Autopilot offering.

Moreover, GM's deal with AT&T could allow it to develop more connected car services and distribute them more broadly and quickly. One area the automaker may focus on more heavily is vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications. Companies including AT&T and Qualcomm in the wireless industry have been loudly discussing such technology as a way to improve automotive safety by allowing cars to communicate with each other and with other objects such as stop signs. However, the V2X sector remains somewhat bogged down by competing technology options.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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