AT&T's Sponsored Data plans haven't really gotten any traction in the marketplace, but they think there could be an opportunity for in-vehicle data connections sponsored by auto manufacturers. They are actively working with auto makers to find new opportunities for LTE connectivity in cars. Having the manufacturers pay for that data connection is one way that their Sponsored Data plans could see an uptick in use. It's one avenue that AT&T is pursuing. "We're working very closely with each one of the auto manufacturers to really determine, what do they want their strategy to be around the data and the connectivity in the vehicle," Chris Penrose said in an interview with FierceWireless. He's the Senior Vice President of AT&T's Sponsored Data program. "We're not done exploring all the different options," he said. "You heard us announce Sponsored Data earlier this year. I think that can play inside the vehicle."
Auto manufacturers could spring for the data connection in your vehicle for the first year after you buy your new car, in much the same way that OnStar or SiriusXM radio is included with some car purchases. Penrose said that another option may be to have auto makers sponsor the data for specific vehicle models or certain auto lines. AT&T has already partnered with GM to offer in-car data for as little as $5 per month. AT&T subscribers that own a compatible GM vehicle can add the car to their family plan for the same cost as a tablet. It wouldn't be a big stretch for GM to start paying for a year or more of data when you buy one of their automobiles. "We're really trying to offer up a lot of different options," Penrose said. "What are all of the different things you can do with that connectivity?"
GM's 2015 Chevy Malibu with be their first vehicle with full LTE connectivity built into it. They are planning on releasing more than 30 new vehicles next year that have LTE access built in. The car is one of the next frontiers, with Google, Apple, and others announcing new auto platforms and focusing on gaining users through the car, truck, van, or other vehicle they choose to drive.