Driving a Wi-Fi Network

December 15, 2014

Written by wukovits

Being able to “stay connected” while traveling can be a crucial requirement for some people. For others, having an Internet connection to browse the web, watch videos, and play games might not be a necessity, but can be a big help when facing hours of highway traveling. While smartphones have been around for a while, having a Wi-Fi hotspot that travels with you is a more recent development.

Chevrolet-4G-LTE-WiFiThis year, Chevrolet is bringing a more convenient option to vehicle buyers with 4G LTE Wi-Fi in most 2015 models. By partnering with AT&T, Chevrolet is the first to bring Internet connectivity on a large-scale to their customers in their cars and trucks. The AT&T network is one of the biggest here in the United States which should mean that service will be widely available wherever you travel. The massive increase in mobile device usage and web content consumption on mobile devices is proof positive that having another way to get online is a smart move for Chevrolet.

I decided to visit our local Chevrolet dealer, Billy Navarre Chevrolet, to see about testing out a vehicle with the new 4G LTE service. Mike Fontenot, one of the sales team at Billy Navarre Chevrolet, was kind enough to help by setting me up with a Chevy Malibu, a mid-grade sedan. While the 4G LTE service is available is fully loaded models, I should note that even the vehicles without all the bells and whistles can have the service too, as my vehicle did. While the user interface is a bit different, getting the Wi-Fi network information to configure devices wasn’t difficult.

With the car parked, I connected my phone to the car’s network and ran some speed tests. While the coverage can vary dramatically depending on your location, for the most part the bandwidth was within acceptable norms for an LTE connection here in Lake Charles on AT&T. Existing AT&T customers should know that the vehicle can be added to their plan. For those that aren’t, you can choose from a variety of plans, starting at $5 per month for 200MB of bandwidth. This pricing is for OnStar subscribers, but there are plans available even without an Onstar subscription. You do get a free trial for 3 months or 3GB of bandwidth, whichever comes first.

The vehicle’s Wi-Fi network will only support 7 devices so to further test, I picked up a couple of co-workers from Bayou Technologies and we connected 7 devices to the Wi-Fi in the Chevy Malibu. We hammered the connection for a while and never noticed any problems running that many devices on the connection. I would reckon that watching 7 Netflix movies at the same time might have some issues, but for most travelers, this should be plenty of speed for casual use.

I’m not condoning using a mobile device while driving in any way. Driving alone, my usage was limited to streaming music through Spotify and iTunes Radio while I drove, but when you have passengers in the car, the 4G LTE Wi-Fi is highly useful. With kids on a road trip, if each has a tablet or other Wi-Fi connected device, the fights in the backseat with certainly be less frequent. That should be a car feature that any parent can appreciate.

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