General Motors announces plans to connect its future cars and trucks in the U.S. and Canada with embedded 4G LTE mobile broadband, the latest and fastest wireless network, enabling a new level of communications and entertainment inside the auto maker’s products.

GM claims it will mark the largest deployment of 4G LTE in the auto industry, with the rollout coming next year on most ’15 Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC models.

“Consumer expectations are being set and driven by, in terms of connectivity, the mobile electronics and consumer electronics world,” says Phil Abram, executive director and infotainment officer-Global Connected Consumer at OnStar, GM’s telematics and advanced technology unit.

“We have to move at a pace that is commensurate with those (sectors),” Abram tells WardsAuto in an interview ahead of the announcement that will be delivered today by GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky in a speech to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“This is GM’s global commitment to understanding what a connected vehicle can be, what a connected consumer will look like, and make those visionary investments.”

Telecommunications giant AT&T will provide the connection, which GM will lay over top of OnStar technology already deployed on some 6 million vehicles. It will be available as a part of an OnStar package, or possibly as a subscription independent from the telematics service.

GM does not release details of the technology investment necessary to deploy 4G LTE, or what a subscription to the service might cost a vehicle owner. The technology does not require a smartphone.

According to GM, 4G LTE mobile data speeds are upwards of 10 times faster than 3G technology and boast increased responsiveness, as well as the ability to support simultaneous voice and data connections.

For example, if a driver were to use OnStar to inquire about potential problem with his vehicle, the network could run a diagnostic check while the driver chats with an OnStar advisor.

The built-in 4G LTE connection also will enable advances in a wide range of in-vehicle communications and entertainment capabilities, GM says. That could include in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots, new infotainment options such as streaming video entertainment to backseat passengers, real-time updates of onboard software and faster application downloads, the auto maker says.

A number of luxury auto makers, such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz, offer wireless hotspot connectivity in their vehicles, and Chrysler recently inked an agreement with Sprint Nextel to take its UConnect system wireless.

Abram says OnStar gives GM a distinct advantage in the space, because the auto maker integrates it into the vehicle’s electrical system. An external antenna maximizes coverage and connectivity.

“Connecting a vehicle sounds easy when you think about dropping a modem into a vehicle, but it is so much more than that,” says Abram, who joined GM 14 months ago from the consumer electronics sector to help build out a broadband network in the auto maker’s vehicles.

“It’s understanding what the customer’s expectations are, knowing that every second counts when it comes to crash notifications (and) what it means to offer turn-by-turn navigation services to a connected vehicle at scale,” he says of various OnStar services. “Those are incredibly valuable assets no one can match in the industry.”

GM expects widespread in-vehicle 4G LTE connectivity to spur vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, enhancing safety, efficiency and convenience for drivers and passengers. The technology also would make services such as real-time traffic and navigation updates possible, the auto maker says.

GM and AT&T will begin work immediately to develop 4G LTE connectivity for the auto maker’s vehicles and plan to collaborate on a broad ecosystem focused on developing new communication applications to enhance the driving and riding experience.

The auto maker will brand the concept “Connected By OnStar.”

“It’s not just the safety and security application,” Abram says of OnStar’s bread-and-butter offering. “It’s a way to connect your vehicle with your digital life.

“We’re building a set of capabilities to deliver a really great experience to consumers, and a lot will be born from what we are doing today with OnStar.”

Abram also says an onus will be placed on making the 4G LTE experience as safe as possible. The rapid increase in mobile connectivity recently has led to an epidemic of distracted driving, and the U.S. government likely will begin regulating connectivity in the future.

“We’re committed to using technology to make things safe (and) to minimize distraction,” he says. “People want to be connected. They are going to use their mobile devices. You can either ignore that or do everything you can to make sure it happens in a safe and secure manner.”

Groupe Speciale Mobile, a European-based organization of global mobile-technology providers, estimates 20% of global vehicle sales in 2015 will include embedded connectivity and 50% will be either embedded or capable of linking with a smartphone. By 2025, GMSA says, every car sold will be connected by multiple means.

GM recently conducted 4G LTE research with AT&T rival Verizon. AT&T won the contract after the auto maker put out bids for integrating the technology into production vehicles.

jamend@wardsauto.com