Vodafone wins major connected-cars deal with Volkswagen

Vodafone has flagged a major new deal to provide connectivity services in European vehicles from Volkswagen and Audi as it continues to grow its presence in the burgeoning connected-cars sector.

The UK-headquartered operator says it will begin equipping Audi models with embedded SIM chips from 2015.

Those chips are to support a range of connectivity services, including in-car navigation, communications and infotainment.

Audi claims to have already included a 4G-capable infotainment system in its S3 car, which means drivers and passengers will be able to benefit from access to the Vodafone (Newbury, UK) 4G network in areas the operator has covered.

Vodafone provided few details on the scope of the agreement but said the global SIM would be widely installed in vehicles in future and would use the Vodafone network and M2M service platform to provide customers with high-speed internet access on the road.

It also emphasized that its SIM chip had been developed specifically to meet the stringent quality requirements of the automobile industry – and that it will function reliably in extreme temperatures.

“We are pleased to supply M2M communications to Volkswagen Group [Wolfsburg, Germany),” said Erik Brenneis, the chief executive of Vodafone M2M. “As a result of this agreement, we will strengthen further our position in the automotive sector – one of the key markets for M2M communication.”

“Our efficient mobile communications networks ensure that the networked car is becoming more and more widespread, including across European national borders,” he added.

Audi has been one of the most active vehicle makers in the connected-cars area, and already provides a range of connectivity services to its customers through its Audi Connect platform.

Earlier this year, it struck a deal with AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) for the rollout of 4G technology in vehicles sold in the US market.

That tie-up appeared to come at the expense of AT&T rival T-Mobile US (Bellevue, WA, USA), which had previously provided 3G connectivity for Audi Connect services.

Vodafone clearly hopes the European connected-cars sector will receive a boost from the planned rollout of an EU-wide “eCall” emergency call system, which is designed to notify emergency services in the event of a car accident.

But it also said that an increasing number of people are now accessing online information services, music and videos through electronic systems built into vehicles.