German automaker Audi this week said it will offer an optional factory-installed WLAN hotspot in the 2011 model of its Audi A8 sedan.
Audi, like other major automakers, is advancing communications options in its vehicles. Chrysler began offering an in-vehicle Wi-Fi system in some 2009 models. Ford, in January, unveiled MyFord Touch -- a move toward making its vehicles mobile communications hubs.
A8 passengers traveling in the front or rear of the vehicle can simultaneously access the Internet through the car’s integrated WLAN module and via UMTS, using up to eight terminal devices such as laptops, Apple iPads, or netbooks.
In order to use the WLAN hotspot to activate Internet access, the driver needs to insert a data-capable SIM card into the Bluetooth online car phone. An Internet connection can also be established via Bluetooth by using a compatible mobile phone with a SIM Access Profile.
Any existing mobile phone contract can be used for this -- often coupled with a flat-rate data plan, according to the carmaker. Audi is touting speeds up to 7.2 Mbit/s to access information, corporate data, and e-mail.
Communication with the Internet takes place through the rooftop antenna of the Audi A8 via the car’s own UMTS module. This model will provide the best connection stability and high-quality reception, according to Audi.
Pricing was not disclosed.
For comparison, Sprint's MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot creates a Wi-Fi data network anywhere there is cell phone access. The Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot, also from Sprint promises significantly faster 4G speeds – where it's available. The MiFi 2200 and Overdrive 3G/4G can each connect up to 5 wireless devices.