GM in talks with Chinese companies about introducing 4G LTE

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DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors is in discussions with Chinese telecommunications companies about providing 4G high-speed cellular data service in its vehicles.

GM, which will begin offering AT&T Inc.'s 4G LTE in select Chevrolet models in the second quarter in the United States and Canada, wants to select a carrier in China by year's end, said Mary Chan, president of GM's global connected customer, in a telephone interview.

Introducing 4G to its largest market -- and the world's largest for new cars -- would build on GM's efforts to refashion its OnStar communication service into a high-tech infotainment system and open new money-making opportunities. GM has more than 6.5 million OnStar subscribers, about 600,000 of them in China.

"We've got specific requirements around OnStar services on LTE that we want to be made available," Chan said. "It is safe to say that we'll get China out there ahead of Europe."

The automaker said in a statement today that models including the Malibu and the Impala sedans will be among the first to get 4G in North America, and that GM will make special applications available through the Chevrolet AppShop. The statement was issued just before the opening of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, which is being held in Las Vegas this week.

Selection process

While China's cellular network isn't as advanced as the one in the United States, it's moving in that direction. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last month awarded approval to start commercial services for 4G to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. The government didn't say when services using the TD-LTE standard will begin.

Entering China with 4G connected vehicles "is a function around the timing of the network and the capability of the network," Chan said. "We're working through our selection process. We will certainly work toward the goal to make sure that this year we wrap up on the selection process."

GM has issued requests for proposals to carriers in China, she said.

The country is expected to move quickly to roll out 4G, said Mark Boyadjis, an analyst with IHS Automotive.

"They don't have any devices on TD-LTE in China yet, smartphones or cars, but that's not to say that it won't be relatively quick," he said. "These are big money players at the helm."

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