RPT-Connected cars: Is AT&T leaving Verizon in its rear-view mirror?

Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:47pm EDT
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By Marina Lopes and Bernie Woodall

WASHINGTON/DETROIT, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier known for its widespread coverage, is falling behind its biggest rival in what many are betting will be the next big thing in the wireless industry: connected cars.

The reason? Simply put, the type of network Verizon uses isn't global.

The $1.7 trillion wireless industry has just about reached capacity for growth, and mobile companies are turning to connected devices for future revenue. Connected cars, which hook up with a wireless network, currently allow you to do everything from turning an auto into a Wifi link for other devices, to honking its horn from anywhere in the world. The cars are also able to update software remotely.

The market for such technology is just getting ramped up. It produced revenue of $8 billion in 2013 and is expected to bring in $20 billion annually by 2018, according to Juniper Research.

So far, AT&T has announced deals with brands at eight automakers and Verizon is trailing with four announced deals. Sprint has announced two and T-Mobile has announced one. The value of such deals have not been disclosed.

Verizon, for its part, rejects the notion that it is falling behind. It says it is offering more robust services to consumers and auto makers than its rivals.