OnStar and Verizon unify bills

OnStar is working with Verizon Wireless to make it cheaper for OnStar Personal Calling customers to forward calls from a hand-held Verizon phone to the OnStar phones embedded in their vehicles.

Also, OnStar and Verizon charges will be combined on a single bill.

Currently, customers who want to forward calls from a hand-held phone to the OnStar phone must pay both their network provider and OnStar for the air time. Starting in the second quarter of 2002, consumers who use Verizon as their network provider will be able to combine OnStar Personal Calling minutes and Verizon hand-held cell phone minutes into one bill and to end double billing for the forwarded calls.

Pricing for the call-forwarding option are not final, though there could be an additional flat fee involved. To use Personal Calling, OnStar customers pre-purchase minutes on their OnStar accounts.

OnStar is the General Motors telematics subsidiary that provides route guidance, emergency notification and concierge services through a phone embedded in the vehicle. OnStar is a built-in feature on many GM vehicles and is offered on some Acura and Lexus vehicles. Lexus brands the service as Lexus Link. Only GM and Acura offer Personal Calling.

Calls may be forwarded from hand-held phones to the vehicle's hands-free cell phone, but the reverse is not possible because of technical reasons, OnStar says. A customer's hand-held cell phone does not need to be in the vehicle for the service to work.

OnStar is in discussions with other network providers to work out a similar billing option, but Verizon is alone in pursuing this option so far.

"We found some of the wireless companies pretty reluctant to want to feel as though they will share a customer," says Chet Huber, OnStar president.

The Chrysler group last month announced its plan to offer customers a hands-free phone option that will connect a user's hand-held cell phone with the vehicle using Bluetooth technology, which wirelessly connects electronic devices. AT&T Wireless helped the Chrysler group design its system.

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