Autonet’s new mobile in-car router creates a hotspot with 150 foot range and uses both 2.5G and 3G networks so you can bootleg your Radiohead on the go. Cadillac recently rolled it out as an exclusive dealer-installed option for the CTS, but the simplistic nature of the installation (one wire for power) lends itself to practically any automotive/marine/transformer application. So, is this the future of connectivity on the go? Yes and no.
First of all, as I said, the installation is pretty easy for those with a little experience. Run the power wire directly to the ignition and the ground wire to the chassis. Done. As advised, I chose to mount mine in the trunk on the driver’s side. It has a bright blue LED on the front so your friends will know where to direct their envy. Setup is minimal. Any wi-fi enabled device will detect the router instantly. By default, there’s no password protection but you can apply one to stifle the moochers.
Those used to surfing the web on your iPhone or other less cultish smart phones should feel right at home. Speeds are on par with other 3G networks with average download speeds clocking in around 750Kbps and upload speeds of 170Kbps. Peak download speed was 1.06Mbps. The problems started as I began driving. It was like the signal was trying to catch me in a trailing car. With each turn at an intersection or mash of the pedal, my connection speeds would plummet. Now that’s not to say that it ruined my opinion of the device. After all, surfing the internet via wi-fi doing 75 mph down the expressway is new tech. But I don’t seem to notice the same inconsistency with my cell surfing on a similar 3G network.
The hardware is bit steep for a router at $499 (without installation), but not ludicrous. As for the service, there are two packages each with data caps. For $29 per month you get 1GB of data. This should be more than enough for the average surfer. Torrent junkies may want to opt for the 5GB plan at $59. What I do like about the service is that it’ll shut you down at the data cap, so you don’t have to live in fear of a $30,000 phone bill. Compared to what I spend for 20Gbps/15Gbps at home, the plan seems a bit high for what you’re getting. But when I imagine the possibilities for realtors, brokers and chauffeurs it seems quite reasonable.
Is this the future of automobile connectivity? Think of it more as a proof of concept. Surfing the internet is indeed possible from your car, even at speed. But the networks will need another upgrade (4G/LTE?) before all GPS systems are internet based and real time, for example. Once that happens, wireless routers can easily be factory installed utilizing existing antennas. Internet radio will become available on all cars and voice-driven email access will keep you looking like a crazy person talking to yourself. The possibilities are truly endless.