OnStar 4G LTE Buick Regal: OnStar with 4G LTE is standard on the 2015 Buick Regal, allowing customers to pair up to seven devices to a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.Enlarge Photo
Last year, General Motors promised to bring 4G LTE and wi-fi to millions of vehicles in 2014, courtesy of a partnership with AT&T. Now, the automaker has announced pricing for the service. Are you ready for a new monthly bill?
WI-FI & YOUR WALLET
The data service will flow through OnStar devices, which essentially take cellular 4G LTE signals and broadcast them as wi-fi networks. GM says that OnStar's 4G and wi-fi hardware are, in most cases, standard equipment on new cars.
Not surprisingly, OnStar subscribers will receive a discount on the new service. For $5 per month, those folks can have access to 200 mb of data, which GM says is "enough to stream more than 6.5 hours of music, surf the internet for 13 hours or send more than 10,000 emails without attachments". Plans for one gb, three gb, and five gb are also available at $15, $30, and $50 per month, respectively.
If you're not an OnStar subscriber, the cost of that delicious data can be higher. For the low-end, 200 mb plan, non-OnStar-subscribers will pay $10 per month, or $20 for one gb. Prices are $30 and $50 for three and five gb, respectively.
The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu will be the first vehicle with access to the 4G LTE service. However, over 30 other GM models -- including Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, and GMCs -- will be added before the close of the year.
If you don't have kids and don't use much cellular data apart from, say, streaming music, this could be a pretty good deal. For families, however, the costs will mount, thanks in no small part to Dick and Jane's data-hungry tablets, smartphones, and laptops. Streaming a couple of movies on Netflix would quickly blow through the low-end plan, and a full-fledged summer roadtrip could cost a pretty penny in overages.
If you find yourself in that situation and you're an AT&T customer, you might consider adding your car to your mobile share plan. Yes, proving once and for all that our vehicles are as much as part of the family as Dick and Jane themselves, GM says that AT&T customers can add a 4G LTE-equipped GM vehicle to a mobile share plan for $10 per month.
You may not need to do that, though. If you've already got a good data plan and want to bring wi-fi to the car, you can easily turn your cell phone into a mobile hotspot. There are several apps that accomplish that task on Android phones, and Apple has baked it right into the operating system for later-model OS devices. That's one less monthly bill to pay.