I think E-call is a WONDERFUL service for consumers/drivers; however, there are good reasons why these have been available for over a decade in North America (and they are now in the THIRD generation), but haven't yet made an appearance in ANY form in EU. These are listed in my original post; that was the point I was trying to get across. You may be familiar with another excellent example: the old vehicle location/traffic monitor system in Japan. It's an incredibly complex and expensive system based on really old technology, and has been just recently phased out because GPS is so much better and widespread now. Government-dictated systems tend to be obsolete by the time they are fully implemented, very expensive (often because political reasons are used more than dispassionate technical analysis for determining the design), and have unforeseen consequences that can cause more problems than they solve.
You misunderstand the purpose and use for the embedded cellular connection. This is NOT FOR THE CUSTOMER to use for normal telephone calls. In fact the EU E-call initiative forbids any use of the cellular connection for any other purpose. The connection serves 2 purposes: to provide voice communication between the occupants of a vehicle after a collision (and the collision severity has to exceed a certain threshhold of force/damage), AND most importantly, to provide data from the vehicle that indicates the exact location in GPS coordinates, vehicle occupancy information, and sensor information as to airbag deployment (which ones, how many), collision force, type of collision (e.g. front impact, side impact, rear impact, rollover, or any combinations), etc. This allows efficient dispatch of the proper emergency response units as soon as possible.
Looking at how many drivers use GPS these days, its good to have the GPS inbuilt in the car. But the phone service may or may not be needed to built in. Afterall automotive is different from cellular. Many countries there is a law that you dont talk on phone while driving.
I think the EU mandate would read either that the safety system should be based on "at least 2G" cellular (assuming 2G is being retained in Europe for the forseeable future), or it could mandate that this safety system be stand-alone. However, it wouldn't make sense for a government to mandate fancy entertainment systems in cars, which might drive the minimum standard to LTE. Individuals can pay out of pocket for that, if they wish, rather than expecting the taxpayer to foot the bill.
GM's OnStar system is installed in all GM cars, however you aren't required to pay for the service. Plus, there's no government mandate here. So whatever future revenue streams GM plans to get from it are only GM's business. The taxpayer is not subsidizing any non-essential infotainment niceties.
In the United States, GM will newly partner with AT&T (NYSE:T), which will provide LTE connectivity for the OnStar platform.
GM clearly doesn't see LTE-based OnStar to offer just the roadside services.
It hopes that it will enable faster data download speeds to support infotainment services such as streaming video to vehicles, dealer-to-car communication, usage-based insurance and in-vehicle advertising, etc.
In other words, the company expects to create more opportunities for revenue streams from their OnStar program. That, I must say, is pretty visionary -- it goes well beyond just meeting the eCall mandate. .
The E-call initative in EU started well over 10 years ago. The first try couldn't agree on standards after several years of meetings. The committees were disbanded, and new ones formed around 2007-8. At that time, even 3G coverage was spotty in much of EU (remember all of the "newbie" countries added in the late '90s and early in 21st century). Thus, 2G was the common choice to ensure good geographic coverage. Personally, I suspect by the time the 2015 mandate is supposed to be in effect, it'll be pushed out at least 2 additional years for many reasons (and there may be a lot of "2014" models still in production, as the smaller manufacturers are dragging their feet on implementation). That's one of the problems with the EU standards process (aside from the fact that the bureaucrats who create them are generally divorced from political realities).
I don't think this 2G/LTE makes any difference, actually.
GM's OnStar system, as of the mid 2000s, uses the Verizon 3G network (Verizon adopted CDMA when it went to 2G, so that the 2G service could be carried on the 3G bands). Originally these OnStar systems used analog cellular. So now GM is saying they are migrating to the LTE standard. (My question will be, are they going to provide update kits for their 3G systems? Or just leave those cars high and dry, as they did with most of the previous analog OnStar cars?)
If the US Government wanted to meddle in this, they could easily mandate systems like OnStar from all manufacturers. No big deal. It doesn't matter what "G" they use, as long as that G standard is supported by cell carriers. I mean, it's not like you need huge bandwidth for these functions, right? The only thing the system has to do, to fulfill the govt mandate, would be to signal that an accident has occurred, give the location, and provide voice service from an operator. That can be done with ANY existing cell phone standard, as long as towers supporting that standard exist!
I'll be curious to see how GM positions this, and what they will suggest buyers will be able to do with the capability.
And it brings up another question: what will that 4G LTE device connect to?
My existing cell phone connects to a carrier on a contract. If I buy a GM car with 4G LTE connectivity, it's certainly not going to connect to my existing carrier under my existing contract. To use it at all, I'm looking at getting a contract for it, with precisely what I can do with it determined by the contract I get. If I choose not to get a contract for it, it will be unused and unnecessary, because there will be nothing to connect to.
Though I suppose GM might get into the carrier business, cut a deal with a major provider to resell airtime, and offer connectivity and a contract as part of the purchase, with a monthly cost tacked onto my car payments.
At least I wouldn't worry about battery life... :-)
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