Ford To Offer In-Car Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

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Fancy updating your Facebook status while in the car? Now you can thanks to Ford’s rolling Wi-Fi hotspot

Car maker Ford is to provide UK customers with the ability to surf the Internet from the comfort of their car.

Set to arrive in 2012, the rolling Wi-Fi hotspot, known as “SYNC with MyFord Touch”, essentially creates a Wi-Fi hotspot in your car. It will arrive in new Ford Focus cars sometime next year. The car’s Wi-Fi network will be password protected (WPA2), but should allow up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices to surf the Internet, receive email and update Facebook statuses, all whilst on the move.

Travelling Hot Spot

SYNC will utilise an owner’s existing USB modem, or alternatively the modem capabilities of a smartphone, in order to connect to GSM networks. The system is of course designed for use by the passengers and families members travelling in the car, and is yet another step in the ongoing development of modern in-car entertainment.

Until now, the ability to provide in-car Internet access has traditionally been the preserve of high end car manufacturers such as Mercedes, Wi-Fi buses or trains, or chauffeur-driven limousines.

“Ford is an automaker that is quickly becoming a personal technology company as well,” said Christof Kellerwessel, chief engineer for electronic and electrical systems. “We’re finding that Ford customers are tech savvy and – while travelling as passengers in cars – they want to be able to use their Wi-Fi enabled devices while on the move.

“A reliable in-car Internet connection is therefore extremely important to them, and that’s exactly what SYNC will offer when it makes its UK debut on the Ford Focus in 2012. SYNC with MyFord Touch will offer rolling connectivity to Ford customers and everyone in a SYNC-equipped car can benefit at no additional expense.”

Of course Ford should be congratulated for allowing the integration of existing 3G dongles, rather than specifying that customers buy bespoke and expensive equipment. The ability to use customer equipment  of course means that there should be no additional subscription fees for users. However, Ford has not said at this time how much the in-car Wi-Fi system will cost.

“Because it will be able to make use of a customer’s existing USB modem device or obtain a connection through a smartphone connected via Bluetooth, SYNC will offer the best value and flexibility for Ford customers,” said Kellerwessel.

Future Proof?

Ford said that SYNC will use software updates to ensure it remains compatible with the latest hardware and devices, so “customers can be sure that their SYNC-equipped vehicles will always allow them to make use of whatever USB mobile broadband modem or smartphone they are using – even devices that have yet to go on the market.”

“We knew from the beginning that our connectivity solution would have to keep pace with the rapid advancement of consumer electronics and be flexible and upgradeable in order to remain useful to customers for as long as they own their vehicles,” said Kellerwessel.

It is worth noting that Ford’s SYNC’s Wi-Fi capability will only be fitted to new cars (not second hand vehicles), as it is a factory fitted option that integrates the necessary hardware into the vehicle.

Data Crunch

Of course, the average mobile broadband experience in the UK leaves something to be desired, as mobile networks continue to struggle with the data capacity crunch. This data strain has caused some networks to crash in the past.

A survey last year also highlighted how UK users are falling out of love with mobile broadband. Mobile broadband price comparison site Broadband Expert found in June 2010 that there had been a 57 percent drop in the number of people it had helped sign up for mobile broadband in the last twelve months. Moreover, it found that dongle sales had crashed by over 50 percent year-on-year.

And in December 2009 the Bluetooth SIG group called for mobile broadband users to stop wasting their money by using their dongles to access the Internet whilst on the go, but rather to use their mobile phones instead as the gateway for mobile broadband.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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