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In car wi-fi part of the 'future of connectivity'

Tuesday, November 25th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

EE’s latest vehicle wi-fi device may not be the future of in-car connectivity, but is a “proof of concept” moment, an expert has said.

Jamie Moss, senior analyst for consumer technology at Ovum, said that devices like EE’s Buzzard 2 will probably not be the way the connected car works in the future, but it gives people the chance to test out how they might want it to work.

Buzzard 2, launched last week, is EE’s latest 4G wi-fi device designed to bring high-speed connectivity to the car.

Available to businesses and consumers on a range of pay-as-you-go and monthly plans, the device is aimed to bring connectivity for entertainment, productivity and navigation without needing expensive in-built solutions.

It can plug directly into the dashboard’s 12v connection without needing an adapter, and an extra USB socket allows other devices to be connected to it and charged.

Mr Moss said told Cable.co.uk: “There’s two questions here – will in-car wi-fi be something that is common for us to have in the future? Second, what will be the form factor?

“I don’t necessarily think it’s the case that something like a car charging adapter dongle will be the default way.

“It’s kind of a proof of concept moment for wi-fi in the car and for companies like EE it’s a case of why not?”

He said that the future could lie in connections built in to cars, or people having dedicated devices in their vehicles, or taking other devices in to them each time they got into the car.

“I have heard a fair amount of derision, people saying, ‘well why don’t you just take your smartphone into your car, set up its mobile hotspot functionality and use that to connect other devices?’

“I think in the future of connectivity, ease of use is going to be an important thing. I’m not sure how many people want to have to tinker about with settings when they leave one environment and go into another. Maybe it’s better to have something that is specifically for your car, this is something that can be left in the car.

“A lot of people are getting very excited about the connected car market, but the truth is that very few cars are connected these days.

“Something like this provides an easy and relatively cheap point of entry for any interested consumers who might want to test out the proposition and work out what the vehicle for them is.”

Mr Moss said it was “encouraging” that EE had followed up its original Buzzard with a newer version, and it was part of ways to compel people to find more uses for connectivity.

He said EE was keen to sell as many 4G subscriptions as possible, and with the car identified as a good environment for high-bandwidth use cases, it made sense for them to “give it a bash”.

“EE’s launch of customer wi-fi is all part of the strategy to migrate people to 4G because 4G is EE’s USP. It’s also a way to compel people to find more uses for connectivity.”

It is also part of providers becoming “one-stop shops” for mobile, broadband, TV, and wi-fi solutions, he said.

He added: “There’s always going to be pros and cons to brought-in solutions, be they dongles or smartphones.

“But there’s quite a lot happening right now because the connected car space is interesting and it’s real.

“It’s just a case of seeing how it pans out, what’s the best way to market it.”

An EE spokesperson said there had been great feedback from the original in-car Buzzard, and they had been pleased with the initial pick-up of its successor.

Asked about the demand for Buzzard 2, they said: “Smartphones and tablets are becoming an increasingly important part of people's digital lives.

"From working and shopping to music and games, nowadays our customers want the benefits of superfast mobile internet wherever they are.

“We want to make sure our customers can enjoy 4GEE is as many places as possible; that's why we've connected more of the UK road network than any other operator.

"Buzzard 2 is the perfect way for passengers to access the biggest and fastest 4G network in the UK – whether they're keeping the kids entertained on the school run or commuting to work."

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