Verizon Communications Inc.'s Verizon Wireless has plunged into the complex world of connected vehicles with solutions such as Hum and Zubie. Its approach differs from that of AT&T Inc.'s Mobility, especially on the business-to-consumer front. By leveraging the premium rates of its existing data plans, Verizon Wireless gives customers the option to add its OBD-II port plug-ins, like Hum, as a connected device for additional monthly fees.
On July 6, Verizon Wireless made changes to its data plans to accommodate up to 20 devices per plan, one of which could be a connected car. Use of connected car solutions that use Verizon Wireless 4G LTE data count against the customer's monthly data allotment and may entail data overage fees.
Verizon Wireless offers discounted data plan rates for small businesses, provides usage-based insurance by partnering with insurance companies such as State Farm and provides fleet management services through integrated platforms from acquired developers like Telogis.
Notably, Verizon Wireless is tapping into the connected vehicles and telematics space through its June 21 acquisition of Telogis and its Aug. 1 agreement to acquire Fleetmatics for $2.40 billion.
The carrier had already ventured into the space when it acquired Hughes Telematics Inc., a developer of information-based and wireless services adaptable to various vehicle platforms, on June 1, 2012. Telogis is a telematics and fleet-logistics systems developer, and Fleetmatics is a software developer with a platform providing GPS vehicle management along with other services tailored to companies with mobile workforces.
Launched Aug. 26, 2015, Hum is Verizon Wireless' most-known connected car solution for consumers; however, the carrier offers similar solutions, including Delphi Connect, In-Drive and Zubie.
Hum plugs into a vehicle's OBD-II port to monitor the vehicle and alert the driver through the vehicle's speaker system and the service's app. Along with additional startup fees, Verizon Wireless charges Hum users $10 per month for a service that monitors vehicle health and offers roadside and emergency assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. Users can also purchase Hum directly through the product manufacturer for the same monthly service fee and one-time equipment ($20) and activation ($29.99) fees as they would through the carrier.
Through its partnerships with Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, customers can also use Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE data to connect their cars by mirroring their smartphones to the vehicle dash through Mercedes-Benz's mbrace or Volkswagen's VW Car-Net.
Verizon's focus on premium customers is in step with connected car demand, according to the results from our February survey. Our survey results indicate that homes with incomes over $100,000 a year are more likely to be interested in connected cars. Out of the total survey base of 2,612 respondents, 11% of those who earned $100,000 per year and above "already own/use" a connected car, followed by 9% who were "extremely interested" and 14% who were "very interested" in the connected car. The percentages for those earning less than six figures were 5%, 6% and 11%, respectively.
Although Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility both offer connected car solutions for an additional monthly fee on an existing data plan, AT&T Mobility offers more customization and variety in its plans. The carrier also has partnerships with eight car makers (nine including Volvo's 2017 launch) compared to Verizon's two. Its plans are more tailored to specific vehicle makes and models through its partnered manufacturers' session-based prepaid data plans.
Through AT&T Mobility's auto manufacturer partners, session-based prepaid data plans vary slightly between certain manufacturers such as Audi and Porsche. The terms of service, the price, the amount of data included and the number of devices that can be connected at once to the in-car Wi-Fi hotspot also vary.
Several of AT&T Mobility's manufacturer partners, however, use the same session-based prepaid data plan for their built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC, for instance, all offer prepaid data plans through OnStar. There is also some overlap between several of the manufacturers in terms of the compatibility of their connected cars with AT&T Mobility's data plans. For instance, most or all of AT&T's auto manufacturer partners have car models that can use 4G LTE data from a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot through AT&T's Unlimited Plan or Mobile Share Value Plan.
AT&T also offers OBD-II port plug-in options, such as the ZTE Mobley, which is compatible with most 1996-and-newer vehicles. Although AT&T Mobility's and its auto manufacturer partners' business models illustrate a transition toward embedding LTE connectivity in new cars, OBD-II port plug-ins are here to stay to enable older cars to be connected.