T-Mobile joins connected car market with SyncUp Drive

T-Mobile is teaming with ZTE and the connected car startup Mojio to launch a connected car offering that doubles as a traveling Wi-Fi hotspot.

The nation’s third-largest carrier introduced SyncUp Drive, which plugs into a car’s ODB-II (on-board diagnostics) port to analyze driving behavior, provide maintenance reminders, track location and monitor other connected vehicles. The offering also serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot for as many as five devices via T-Mobile’s LTE network.

SyncUp Drive retails for $150, but the carrier will offer it free beginning Nov. 18 to users who sign on to a 24-month agreement with a mobile data plan of 2 GB or more per month. Most cars built since 1996 have ODB-II ports.

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“With T-Mobile SyncUp Drive, you have a new way to ride on America’s fastest nationwide 4G LTE network,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a prepared statement. “We’re making it radically simple for customers to connect their cars with a complete, all-in-one package – and the best part is that we’re making it totally free at launch.”

The new offering counters Verizon’s Hum, a kind of OTT telematics app that Verizon sells for $10 a month. Hum doesn’t include in-vehicle Wi-Fi connectivity, however, and T-Mobile was quick to point out that it accesses Verizon’s 2G network rather than LTE.

ZTE produces the SyncUp device, and the service is powered by Mojio, a 4-year-old company that operates a connected car platform.

The launch marks another step into the IoT market for T-Mobile, which has sometimes dismissed the segment in favor of more traditional – and more lucrative – smartphone-based services. “We’ve been hearing about IoT for a long time – especially from AT&T who thinks they can mask their flailing consumer wireless business with lots of cars and other low-value IoT connections,” Legere wrote in a blog post late last year.