Ford and Vodafone bring Wi-Fi hotspots to connected cars

FordPass Connect with built-in modems hit the road in Europe from 2018.

Ford will offer 4G-powered in-car Wi-Fi from 2018Reuters

Ford and Vodafone have joined forces to boost internet access in Ford cars sold in Europe. The partnership will see 4G LTE modems built into Ford vehicles to allow passengers to stream films, music and more through a Wi-Fi connection to their smartphones, tablets and other devices while on the road.

The modem, dubbed FordPass Connect, allows up to 10 devices to connect to the Wi-Fi network at any time, with an external antenna promising to bring "improved connectivity" when streaming media. Such systems often use the roof as an antenna, creating a stronger connection than a 4G smartphone used in Wi-Fi hotspot mode.

As well as infotainment connectivity for passengers, FordPass Connect also links up with the FordPass app which allows drivers to lock and unlock car doors, check fuel and oil levels and other useful vehicle stats through a smartphone.

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FordPass Connect uses a Vodafone SIM card and paid data plan (prices to be confirmed). The partnership follows a similar collaboration between Ford and AT&T to bring Wi-Fi to vehicles in the US, and comes a year after rival Ford began offering in-car Wi-Fi.

FordPass Connect will be an optional extra on Ford vehicles sold across Europe from 2018, with the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain the first to receive the feature.

While in-car mobile hotspots are already available on the market from manufacturers such as Huawei and TP-Link, Ford is seemingly hoping that the offer of built-in connectivity and integration with the Ford Sync infotainment platform is enough to sway media-hungry families on their travels.

"The future of mobility is enabled by connectivity, connectivity between you and the vehicle, between your smartphone and vehicle, and between the vehicle and its surroundings," said executive director of Ford Connected Vehicle and Services, Don Butler.

"With FordPass Connect, our Sync platform is transitioning from being device-centric to become cloud-connected. FordPass Connect with Wi-Fi powered by Vodafone lets kids watch movies, listen to music or even do homework while travelling; and people working from the road can easily access corporate resources from wherever they are."

Ford unveiled its in-car Wi-Fi system at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona. Elsewhere at the show, the US automotive giant also further expanded its City of Tomorrow vision with a concept that brings together autonomous vehicles and drones for speedy deliveries in urban areas.

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