I’m not shy about being a fan of GM’s OnStar system. When they launched their 4G LTE connectivity, I was really interested in learning more about how this service would benefit users. Essentially, the connectivity turns your vehicle into a mobile hotspot, allowing you to stay connected wherever you go. This technology also earned GM the “Best of What’s New” Award from Popular Science in 2014.
My first question was, how would this be better than using my cellphone’s data plan? After all, I feel pretty connected as it is… sometimes too much! Here’s how my family took advantage of the OnStar Wi-fi service:
Say good-bye to roaming charges! This is one of my favourite benefits. OnStar has agreements with local network carriers throughout Canada and the US. When you use the OnStar Wi-fi connection, there are no roaming charges.
OnStar Wi-fi also provides a reliable signal up to 50 feet. So if you're driving with another vehicle in your entourage, they could access the Wi-fi connection as well!
Stay connected and up-to-date on your favourite online sites. While we were travelling with the 2015 Cadillac XTS, our kids streamed movies and accessed their games/apps. Here's something cool we did: we streamed YouTube music through my smartphone via OnStar Wi-fi, then streamed that through Bluetooth to the car's radio!
It was convenient to have the OnStar Wi-fi connection while I was travelling out east. I could oversee my auto repair shop business and get emails answered promptly through my laptop.
With the antenna mounted on the vehicle's roof, the signal of the connection is much stronger when compared to a cell phone that is inside the vehicle. It also uses multiple input/output antennas so that it can maintain a connection with one tower while using another antenna to connect to the next tower. This way, the connection doesn't fade or drop. That proved handy when I drove out of town and hit certain areas where my cell signal was limited or not available. Even though my Rogers network wasn't available at the time, the vehicle connected to the strongest and fastest network available in the service area.
The OnStar Wi-fi is easy to use, it’s just like hopping onto any other hotspot. Turn your device’s Wi-fi connection on and it will detect your vehicle, in the OnStar screen you are given a dedicated ID and password.
If you're accustomed to having another device tether to your smartphone, you know that your phone's battery will drain quicker. Another benefit to using the OnStar Wi-fi connection is that it's powered by the vehicle battery. When I spoke with Natalie Nankil, Media Relations Manager with GM Canada, she confirmed that “...battery life on a mobile device tends to drain quickly, especially when it is being used to tether to another device. With the vehicle Wi-fi, you don’t have to worry about draining your mobile device battery since you can connect directly to the car instead of your mobile device.” Also, the devices aren't sharing your data plan!
The OnStar Wi-fi service is available in many GM vehicles ranging from the 2015 Chevrolet Spark to the 2015 GMC Canyon. Specific vehicles are listed on the OnStar website. The first 3 months/3GB of data are included with the purchase of new Wi-fi-equipped vehicles.
Whether you subscribe to OnStar or not, data plans are available in select GM vehicles. Monthly plans start at $10-$15 per month for 200MB to $60 for 5GB. You may also purchase one-time data packages, perfect for road trips or vacations where you aren't planning on using data throughout the year. These packages start at $5 for 250MB/day.