AT&T, Volvo Announce High-Speed, In-Car Connectivity Deal

AT&T has added Volvo to the list of automakers taking advantage of its Single SIM in-car connectivity solution.

AT&T and Volvo have entered into a multiyear agreement, in which AT&T will enable high-speed wireless connectivity in Volvo vehicles.

AT&T's Single SIM platform will power Volvo's Sensus Connect in-car solution in model year 2015 vehicles, which will be available this summer. Sensus offers drivers access to the Internet via any in-dash display (though for safely reasons, browser and video functions are disabled while driving), as well as a variety of touch-based and voice-controlled applications, including navigation, infotainment, music, and service and repair. Sensus connects to a cloud, so users can, for example, access a playlist made at home or play music off a USB flash drive.

Sensus can also turn the car into a mobile hotspot, accessible by multiple devices—including the tablets of small video-craving occupants of the backseats.

AT&T introduced Single SIM in early 2012 for traveling users and to meet the growing demand for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The solution offers devices global wireless access in more than 200 countries, saving manufacturers the trouble of arranging their own roaming agreements.

"We're committed to working with Volvo Cars to give their customers a unique and valuable service," Chris Penrose, senior vice president of Emerging Devices with AT&T Mobility, said in an April 16 statement. "Our Single SIM will make it easy for Volvo customers to connect to telematics in the U.S. and Canada and mobile Internet services in the U.S."

The New Playing Field for Carriers

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, AT&T made clear its intention to "lead the future of the connected car," as Glenn Lurie, AT&T president of Emerging Enterprises and Partnerships, said during his opening-day keynote.

AT&T announced a deal to power Audi's in-car solution, for its 2015 A3 line of sedans. It was a particularly notable win, since it stole the business away from T-Mobile, but it also came with the news that starting this summer AT&T will allow subscribers to add a vehicle data plan to their existing smartphone or tablet plans.

AT&T also announced a multiyear exclusive agreement to wirelessly enable Tesla vehicles and introduced Drive Studio, a "first-of-its-kind connected car center in Atlanta," where automakers, developers and others within the overlapping ecosystems can collaborate on connected car solutions.

Called a "next-generation garage" by AT&T, the Studio includes garage bays, where development teams can try out their ideas; a speech lab, for working on voice-guided (hands-free) applications; and a showroom, conference facilities and more.

"Our goal is to be the best carrier for connected car innovation in the world," Lurie said at the time.

Sprint introduced Sprint Velocity at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, pitching the idea: What if, rather than a car being at its best the moment it's driven off the lot, it could get better with time? And Verizon Wireless sells a Delphi Connect USB-based solution that can turn a vehicle into a 4G LTE mobile hotspot, as well as an online dashboard with vehicle diagnostics and troubleshooting tools.

But so far, as carriers, faced with slowing smartphone sales, pursue the connected car market as a new subscriber opportunity, AT&T is the pole sitter.

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