T-Mobile expands connected car ambitions into prepaid with MetroSMART Ride

T-Mobile's new MetroSMART Ride service for its MetroPCS prepaid brand includes an ODB-II dongle and a companion smartphone app. (T-Mobile)

Following the launch of its own SyncUp Drive connected car product, T-Mobile announced it will essentially extend that offering into its MetroPCS brand under the new MetroSMART Ride tag.

Vendor Mojio powers the offering, which is built by KonnectONE. Mojio offers similar products through the likes of Deutsche Telekom and Telus, covering a total of 750,000 connected cars in five countries across North America and Europe.

The MetroSMART Ride service, from T-Mobile’s MetroPCS prepaid brand, essentially works through an LTE-capable dongle that users plug into their vehicle’s OBD-II (on-board diagnostics) port. Most cars built since 1996 have ODB-II ports. The gadget then can connect to a user’s phone and provide them with information on the car.

T-Mobile said MetroPCS would provide the MetroSMART Ride dongle for free for a limited time, and would charge $10 a month for the service. The offering provides a variety of services including car trouble alerts, fuel levels, roadside assistance from Allstate Motor Club, GPS tracking and location, notifications if a parked car gets hit or towed and 2 GB per month of in-car 4G LTE Wi-Fi. (Service is stopped after that 2 GB allotment, but users can buy more for prices ranging from $5 for 2 GB to $20 for 10 GB.)

The offering is essentially the MetroPCS version of the T-Mobile SyncUp Drive, which T-Mobile launched in 2016 with ZTE and Mojio. Importantly, T-Mobile announced in May that it had deployed more than 700,000 SyncUp Drive devices.

T-Mobile isn't alone in the after-market, connected car sector. Verizon launched its Verizon Vehicle offering in 2015 and then shortly thereafter rebranded it to Hum.

Meantime, AT&T has made a huge business in selling LTE modems to automakers, which then install those devices directly into their new vehicles.

Such IoT devices have grown into a major business for the nation's wireless network operators. For example, Chetan Sharma Consulting noted IoT devices—led by the connected car segment—accounted for more than 77% of all wireless customer net additions in the second quarter, industrywide.

Article updated Aug. 31 to include the vendor of the device.