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Networking & Communications

GM rolls out 4G LTE to most Buicks, bringing car connectivity to the 'burbs

Buick rarely surfaces in the vanguard of automotive anything (and I'm saying this as a longtime fan of the older Rivieras). On Monday, however, General Motors announced that most of Buick's 2015 product line will come with 4G LTE connectivity. Specifically, the 2015 LaCrosse, Regal, Verano, and Encore models will come with this service.

General Motors came out early on this trend, promising at Mobile World Congress in 2013 that it would offer the fast connectivity on most of its cars by the 2015 model year. At CES 2014, it announced 4G LTE connectivity for most Chevrolet models and put the service under the umbrella of its longtime OnStar brand.

Think just a moment about Buick's suburban family audience, and you will understand completely why 4G LTE makes sense for this product line. "Are we there yet?" will be replaced by blissful silence as kids tether their tablets and phones to the car's very own hotspot, to stream music, movies, and maybe even homework research (a parent can dream) while Mom or Dad drives them to that far-flung soccer or baseball game. Broadband makes it possible for multiple devices to enjoy this service.

In addition, the car's own infotainment system will come with apps through Buick's AppShop, empowered by the same connectivity. GM has not announced the launching lineup yet, but the list may include iHeartRadio, Priceline.com, the Weather Channel, and NPR, plus other like-minded apps for finding food and services while on the road. Those apps will display safely for the driver's use on the car's center console. As for the cushy Enclave SUV, not among the models listed for 4G LTE, that feature will be added to the 2016 model. In the meantime, Buick's AppShop will be available through the car's IntelliLink system.

All this will cost something. You can buy a data plan for your car through GM connectivity partner AT&T, or add the car to your existing AT&T plan if you already subscribe. You can also buy data ad-hoc through GM's OnStar service. GM has yet to announce any plans or pricing. And don't feel too bad about having to pony up for connectivity: Even Tesla's free 3G service on its Model S will be ending someday, although the company won't say when.

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