LAS VEGAS – The connected car is catching on and AT&T has an early lead in the space. Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobile & Business Solutions, said he expects within the next year or so that AT&T will hold a 50 percent share of the new connected car market.
That’s a lot of new radios hitting that carrier’s network and it could potentially strain the available bandwidth. But Chris Penrose, senior vice president of AT&T’s Emerging Devices business, isn’t worried about that right now.
Penrose said that aside from streaming video and audio or setting up Wi-Fi hotspots, most of the network activity in the connected car at this point is fairly low bandwidth. But AT&T definitely wants to see more gigabytes burned up by the connected vehicle.
“We love driving data usage,” Penrose said.
AT&T is presently concerned with getting its network into as many vehicles as possible and promoting development of applications for that connectivity in the vehicle, which will inevitably lead to more data consumption.
Penrose said that 118 million smartphones and all the tablets on AT&T’s network will keep the carrier motivated to continue beefing up its network and help future-proof against the coming influx of connected vehicles.
“I feel very confident from a network engineering perspective that we’re going to be able to stay in front of the demands that are coming from the car,” Penrose said.
AT&T has promised to have 10 million connected vehicles on its network by 2017. With the recent announcement that Subaru will be building AT&T connectivity into its new vehicles, AT&T now has connectivity agreements in place with eight automobile OEMs and is on pace to meet its goal.
Those different OEMs are taking different tacks toward encouraging consumers to use the connectivity in their vehicles. Tesla covers mobile data for its customers while companies like General Motors opts to pay for OnStar data use, extracting vehicle diagnostic data and software updates while leaving its customers to foot the bill for more recreational use.
It’s all part of acclimating consumers to mobile data in the vehicle and helping them reach a certain comfort level where they can use it with less fear. Penrose said AT&T is providing metrics like real-time data use tracking in the car and alerts of impending overages.
“We’ve taken a lot of lessons we’ve learned from the smartphone space and we tried to bring that forward to the automobile manufacturers,” Penrose said.