Audi executive hints at removable SIMs for connected cars

Audi USA President Scott Keogh said that drivers want LTE connectivity options and hinted that the company's new A3 sedan, which is expected to be featured at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, may offer drivers the ability to choose their LTE provider.  

Audi A3 sedan LTE

Audi A3

In an interview with CNET, Keogh said that Audi will make announcements at CES about Audi Connect, the connected feature package that Audi offers in various models of its vehicles. In addition, he said that the announcements would concern LTE connectivity. Audi's A3 sedan is being touted as the company's first LTE-enabled car but the company has not revealed which operator, or operators, will provide the underlying LTE network connectivity. An Audi spokesman declined to provide additional details regarding Audi's plans for LTE connectivity in upcoming car models.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) currently provides 3G connectivity to Audi's Connect service in the United States via an embedded SIM that is in the automobile's dashboard. Drivers are charged $450 for data services for 30 months, which equals $15 per month, or they can pay $30 per month if they select the month-to-month option. T-Mobile did not respond to requests for comment on Audi Connect or the possibility of a removable wireless module that would allow customers to switch providers.

Nevertheless, the notion of a removable wireless module, or SIM, for vehicles is gaining traction in the industry. Raco Wireless works with T-Mobile to provide the underlying connectivity for Audi. Raco President John Horn said that he believes that there are two forces driving the move to removable modules: First, removable modules are going to be necessary as automakers upgrade their latest car models to LTE. Without a removable module, older car models will be stranded on CDMA or 2G networks that will eventually be decommissioned by operators. Second, he thinks that the only way people will use the wireless connectivity in their cars is if they can switch to their operator of choice and the network they want. "Operators will want this because the only way to keep making money on the network is if people use the network in their cars," Horn said.

But not everyone is bullish on the removable module. Strategy Analytics analyst Roger Lanctot, associate director of the firm's automotive practice, said none of the consumer studies that his company has conducted indicate that customers want to have a choice of carrier when they select a car with a telematics or connected car solution. "Even if Audi could overcome the technical obstacles and provide the customer with a choice of Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, I believe the only outcome would be confusion for the customer and for the Audi salesperson and marketing team," Lanctot wrote in an email.

Lanctot instead suggests that car makers focus on simplifying their telematics solutions and making the presence of a telecom module a non-issue.

For more:
- see this CNET article

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