Wi-Fi Hotspot

In-Car Wi-Fi Hotspot: Benefit or Boondoggle?

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Wi-Fi Hotspot

In-vehicle Wi-Fi is now all the rage.  GM and other manufacturers are featuring the technology, but does it have any real-life benefit for owners?

Apparently, the perception is that it does.  In a recent survey done by Swapalease, in-vehicle Wi-Fi ranked second overall when potential lease customers were asked what “tech-features” they might want.  Rear-view cameras ranked number one.  Since the cameras are already mandated in the US with a roll-out over the next two years, Wi-Fi may actually be seen as the top “tech-option.”

The concept of in-vehicle Wi-Fi is easy to understand.  It means that devices that can link to Wi-Fi to access the internet would work in a car.  Duh!  What’s not to like?  For one, cost.  A recent article in Paste Magazine looked closely at the costs to use GM’s 4G LTE wireless connectivity.  To use this system one must have an On-Star account and pay for the data usage.  In the example given, the author estimated the cost to download a typical movie using an iPad at over $20.00.  GM does offer a low-cost $5.00 per month plan, but it includes just 200 megabytes of data.  Also, to get that plan one also needs to have a subscription to GM’s On-Star that runs between $200 and $300 per year.


So what are the real-life benefits of having in-vehicle Wi-Fi?  Zero to the actual driver.  The driver can’t use the internet while driving.  Passengers can, but on what device?  Even children now have iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices with their own data plans.  Those devices can not only access the internet, they can also produce Wi-Fi hotspots.  Haven’t we gone beyond needing a local wireless internet connection every place we spend time?

Another benefit, if one can put cost aside, is connectivity quality.  GM’s system may be able to bring in and hold a better signal for more passengers.  Or maybe not.  The video below we have included has a pretty lengthy disclaimer saying that drop outs are not the fault of GM and its hotspot technology.

Our informal interview with tech-savvy autowriters brought mixed interest.  Some pointed out that at media events GM’s hotspots being produced by cars were great.  Powerful, and plentiful data streaming was made available.  Of course the writers got that for free. It is hard to bad-mouth a product you get at no cost.  That seems to be the theme here.  Don’t worry about cost, tolerate some drop-outs, and add yet another monthly subscription you can pay to the many you already have (Cable- Internet, Cell Phones, Netflix, Sat-Rad, Pandora…).

If you use an in-vehicle hotspot from a GM or other automaker’s vehicle, please write in below and tell us what you like about the system.