Audi is officially the first carmaker to put a 4G LTE-equipped vehicle on sale. That vehicle is the redesigned S3 Sportback, which began rolling off production lines on Thursday, GigaOM reports.
4G connectivity will also be coming to the United States, but American buyers will have to wait until next spring when the compact Audi makes its way across the pond.
Instead of the Sportback hatch, Americans will get an S3 sedan, along with a base A3 model. Audi will also bring a plug-in hybrid A3 Sportback to the U.S. after the two sedans launch.
The S3 Sportback will be offered in Europe with an embedded Sierra Wireless LTE module as part of an optional tech package. European drivers will access their network of choice by inserting a SIM card into the dashboard.
In the U.S., drivers probably won’t get a choice of carrier; Audi will most likely partner with a single carrier owing to the fact that U.S. carriers operate on different LTE frequencies. Consequently, Audi and Sierra would have to make different versions of the LTE hardware, just as phone manufacturers sell phones tailored to each carrier’s network.
The LTE connection will be used for infotainment features like the navigation system, which includes Google Earth and Streetview and social media apps accessed through the Audi Connect system. As with other Audis, the A3 and S3 will be equipped with Wi-Fi, so the LTE connection can be distributed to other devices in the car such as other phones, tablets and laptops.
While Audi is the first carmaker to offer a 4G vehicle, it will be in a race to be the first in the U.S. as General Motors is partnering with AT&T to offer 4G on most of its 2015 models, which go on sale next year. The A3’s spring 2014 on sale date may beat GM’s, but not by much.
A bigger mystery is how much all of this will cost. Audi’s carrier of choice may tack on a fee for the in-car device onto a customer’s existing data plan to avoid service sticker shock, but pricing for the LTE module and the car itself will be announced closer to the on sale date.
Updated: The S3’s LTE module will be supplied by Gemalto M2M, not Sierra.
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