Automakers, Carriers to Push Vehicle Wi-Fi in Coming Years


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AT&T this week at CES made two vehicle-related announcements, revealing that it would be providing wireless data access for both Tesla and Audi vehicles in the near future. The plan is to provide data to drivers that can be used for in-dash apps and entertainment, as well as allow consumers to use the connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot for passenger devices.

Other deals of this nature have already been announced and even more are sure to follow in the coming months as vehicle manufacturers begin to make their products more connected than ever. With that in mind, market research firm ABI Research this week predicted that in-car LTE Wi-Fi hotspot solutions will be part of a majority of vehicles sold in North America by 2019.

ABI believes that in-vehicle Wi-Fi will mostly be used for entertainment such as streaming audio or streaming video for back-seat screens. The firm, much like AT&T, envisions passengers playing online games and browsing social networks while riding along.

Though most cars could have Wi-Fi technology in just a few years, that does not mean that most new car buyers will sign up for the data plan required to make use of it. This could prove a stumbling block to in-car entertainment ventures as the compete directly with tablets and smartphones that have their own data plans and Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities.

“Although some early adopters and premium customers might be willing to pay an extra $15 to $30 per month for the convenience of built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, most drivers will not be willing to pay for an automotive wireless plan on top of home broadband and mobile phone subscriptions,” said Gareth Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research. “If the in-car Wi-Fi market is to develop, car OEMs will have to work with mobile operators to develop new initiatives such as the introduction of shared data plans which would enable consumers to add cars to existing tariff plans.”