Verizon wants To Turn Your Car Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Mar 22, 2017

Verizon is making a bigger push into connected cars in an effort to expand beyond its roots in providing mobile phone service.

The company said it would expand its existing Hum line of connected car products including adding a Wi-Fi hotspot that would let passengers go online with a laptop or tablet that might not have its own mobile data connection.

The Wi-Fi hotspot is part of a new premium HumX package, that will start at $15 per month. It includes a device that plugs into a common data port in cars, and allows drivers to monitor their car's performance and maintenance needs while also getting a Wi-Fi connection.

The HumX device works over Bluetooth to pair with a wireless speaker that can clip to a car visor. The speaker includes buttons to automatically connect with Hum's roadside assistance service and customer support.

A less expensive Hum+ device includes the monitoring and diagnostic functions but has a more basic speaker and does not include the Wi-Fi hotspot. Both of the dongles connect with a new Hum smartphone app that adds additional features like reminding drivers where they parked their car and keeping a driving history of data such as how many miles a car drove per day and how fast on average.

Verizon's upgraded features for Hum follows similar offerings from T-Mobile and AT&T. Last year, T-Mobile (tmus) introduced its SyncUp Drive plug-in that includes a Wi-Fi hotspot with cheaper data plans than those offered by Verizon and AT&T.

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The push into connected car dongles comes as growth in the wireless phone business is slowing dramatically, and carriers are looking to new areas for revenue. As part of that effort, AT&T and Verizon have focused on adding customers who want other wireless services like tablet data plans or connected car monitors. Industrywide, 69% of all new customer connections last year were for cars and other Internet of things devices, up from 30% in 2014, according to industry consultant Chetan Sharma.

Verizon (vz) said it would charge $30 for the Hum+ hardware plus $10 a month, unchanged from the original Hum product. The higher-end HumX costs $99, plus $15 per month, which includes 1 GB of data use (larger data plans also available).

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Plug-ins devices like the Hum are distinct from connected car services that many car manufacturers are building into new cars. AT&T (t) is the leading player for built-in connected car service, with over 50% market share for new car connections last year. The carrier has deals in place with many major manufacturers including Audi, Ford (f), and Subaru.

(Updated on March 22 to correct that the Hum+ also includes a speaker.)

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