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Wireless carriers could make cars more expensive to drive

Connectivity is likely to become mandatory soon, but unlimited data usage isn’t.

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Hoping to get unlimited wireless data in your car? If you’re in Canada, dream on.

My latest story for the Globe and Mail looks at the unlimited data plans recently introduced by a couple of car manufacturers in the United States, and how the same is unlikely to happen in Canada.

Simply put: the Canadian wireless market is much less competitive. None of the major carriers offer unlimited data on smartphones, so they’re not likely to do so in cars. Any time soon. Or without some sort of government or regulatory intervention.

The implications don’t mean much now, despite car makers saying that consumers are increasingly demanding in-car data. Drivers and passengers are, of course, free to tether their phones and stream Spotify and the rest, which is basically your only option in Canada.

Things get more interesting the further afield we look, though. Vehicle-to-vehicle and -infrastructure communication is coming fast. The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking at mandatory wireless connections, with support from Canada. LTE in the car, and ultimately 5G, may therefore soon be mandatory.

Who exactly is going to pay that freight remains to be seen. Car manufacturers might swallow the cost themselves in an effort to be competitive against each other, but the more likely outcome is that they’ll simply pass the cost on to consumers.

The market could change dramatically over the next few years, but one thing is for sure if the status quo continues: cars will become a lot more expensive to own or use thanks to wireless carriers.

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