T-Mobile is paving the way with technology for tomorrow’s connected cars today.

By Dave Sullivan

Dave Sullivan has worked for Ford and Panasonic Automotive and served as an auto industry analyst at AutoPacific where he provided insights to media, executive leaders, and a diverse range of industry stakeholders. He has been a thought leader and regularly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Automotive News, and many other global publications. His experience also includes starting a new business unit for Boyd Corporation with thermal management solutions for EV battery packs, inverters, converters, and on-board chargers. He currently leads collaborative efforts with automotive suppliers and OEMs to promote and develop the use of lightweight plastics.

Who wants a car with dated technology? Nobody.

It’s 2009. You saw a good deal in the newspaper on a new car. You head to the dealer and you purchase your new ride. You’re ecstatic that your new car has a USB port to plug in your 30 pin connector iPod to listen to that new Lady Gaga song. Your car also has a CD player, but why bother with that when the iPod can hold thousands of songs?

Fast forward to 2021. You still have the same car. You don’t have that iPod with the 30 pin connector because it’s become obsolete. Your CDs are buried in a box and you haven’t seen them in years. Your car feels like it is losing value every day due to the limitations of the hardware. Who wants a car with dated technology? Nobody.

The average age of the car on the road is now 12.1 years old. As the auto industry grapples with significant changes with autonomy, electrification and connectivity, product planners must keep stakeholders happy during the development process but also keep the vehicle profitable, too. Connectivity can yield so much useful data over the life of the vehicle for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and improve customer satisfaction well past the warranty period.

OEMs have been deploying a new technology to the automotive space in the last few years called over the air updates (OTA). This new capability will unlock significant efficiencies when it comes to cost savings for OEMs as well as prolonging and maximizing the value (and enjoyment!) of car ownership for customers. As it becomes available on more vehicles, it will assist with predictive reliability, allow for firmware updates, and add new features and safety enhancements to aid in a crash. OTA car connectivity will require cars to have up-to-date telematics modules. Partnering with the wrong mobile network operator could mean car owners and customers will be left out from the latest enhancements made possible by OTA – compromising the overall user experience or necessitating expensive upgrades.

This new capability will unlock significant efficiencies when it comes to cost savings for OEMs as well as prolonging and maximizing the value of car ownership for customers.

Most OEMs have had to grapple with telematics control units that have become obsolete due to cellular network changes, well before the vehicle hit end of life. This resulted in customers who were suddenly left with features that no longer worked and many became very upset. Obsolete telematics modules can also result in the need for replacement modules, which would mean added cost for the customer, and frustration if the OEM does not pick a mobile network provider that has laid out a clear, long term path for their network evolution.

Here’s an example: Let’s say Automaker ABCar Company used AT&T for their telematics service across their fleet. ABCar builds a connected car today in 2021 but it will not be able to use AT&T’s new C-Band spectrum that they claim will dramatically improve their coverage and speed, since it won’t be deployed yet. If that new connected car in 2021 doesn’t have it today, it won’t have it in 2033 either, 12.1 years later. 5G almost appears to be an afterthought for some carriers when it comes to thinking about changing the network and what effect that has on their OEM partner, like ABCar.

Consumers take connectivity for granted and disruptions to that addictive connectivity will harm residual value and brand equity.

When was the last time you saw a DVD player in the back seat of a new car? It’s rare these days. How about a CD player?? Nope. Cellular data has opened new doors for automakers to allow for occupants to stream movies, stream music, pre-heat their car from their phone, update their cellular module’s firmware, and even call 911 when the airbags deploy. Consumers take connectivity for granted and disruptions to that addictive connectivity will harm residual value and brand equity. Consumers won’t be upgrading their car as often as their phone. The opportunity to please that customer can be greatly extended when their car works as intended, including offering the features that worked just as well as when it was new as well as new features that can be added over time via OTA updates.

As technology continues to move faster than government regulations, OEMs should continue to expect more oversight from the federal government.

Vehicle connectivity will surely save OEMs some serious time in the future with the new NHTSA standing order requiring OEMs to report monthly on car crashes that involve vehicles with advanced driver assistance features. With over 16,000 crashes in the U.S. on a daily basis, connectivity will be key to finding the necessary information in a timely fashion. As technology continues to move faster than government regulations, OEMs should continue to expect more oversight from the federal government. OEMs should incorporate a robust cellular strategy to allow for these requests two, three, and even ten years down the road. Those dealing with obsolete equipment in vehicles or end-of-life cellular networks could find themselves unable to comply in a timely fashion with future NHTSA requirements.

T-Mobile laid out many network improvements in the last 8 years that have had a real impact on network performance on the road.

As I look at the long term plans for the three major carriers in the US, it appears to be a tight race, at first glance. Dig in a little deeper and it becomes apparent that T-Mobile has become the setting the pace for the industry. How could this be? How did T-Mobile suddenly become so competitive?

T-Mobile laid out many network improvements in the last 8 years that have had a real impact on network performance on the road. The Sprint merger also allowed T-Mobile to take all of the cellular spectrum that Sprint sat on but never deployed and put it to use. Quite a bit of that Sprint goodness it is the kind we all love: fast. This worried one competitor so much they spent over $50B recently to try to catch up – though they’re still behind. For example, if you’re considering a road trip and want 5G coverage, who are you going to go with?

T-Mobile is ready today to keep connected car customers happy for many years to come without concern over obsolescence. The discipline set forth by T-Mobile to deploy a network in a logical and organized fashion should give OEM decision makers the confidence that they are doing right by their customers for the long term. This isn’t the T-Mobile you grew up with. Hello to the new T-Mobile, with a focus on the mobile aspect of the name.

Call 833-784-1609 or visit our website to learn more about how T-Mobile for Business is making connected vehicle solutions possible.

Want even more trends, insights, and success stories?

Browse our Business Insights hub