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Old 11-19-2006, 12:47 PM   #1
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Default Mayday! Some Cars Will Lose OnStar Link (NYtimes.com)

Mayday! Some Cars Will Lose OnStar Link (NYtimes.com)

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/au...01&oref=slogin

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FOR the last decade, OnStar has promoted itself as a paragon of convenience and peace of mind for car owners. Best known for its ability to bail out customers in a jam — and even make an automatic call for help when an air bag has been deployed in an accident — the service has about four million subscribers.

OnStar makes its pitch in a series of alarming radio advertisements that use recordings of actual emergency calls to demonstrate how operators in an OnStar call center are standing by to summon an ambulance, open a car with a child locked inside or track a vehicle that has been stolen. At the push of a button, the operators are available to give directions or to act as concierges, pointing subscribers to the closest gas station or Chinese restaurant.

But the operators will soon be signing off for some of OnStar’s longstanding customers. The dropped connection is a result a little-known decision by the Federal Communications Commission in 2002 that allows cellphone companies to shut down their analog networks beginning in February 2008.

The decision will affect not only mobile phone users in rural America and other places where digital networks have yet to be built, but also hundreds of thousands of subscribers with older cars whose OnStar systems rely on those analog networks. Some subscribers with 2002 model year or newer cars can have their cars converted to digital equipment, or their cars may already be equipped with the needed hardware.

OnStar, which was a $199 option when they bought their vehicles, will become largely obsolete in 15 months in some 2002-4 models, as well as all models before 2002, because the OnStar electronics cannot be upgraded. Some Acura, Audi, Subaru and Volkswagen owners will also be affected.

Verizon Wireless, the network of choice for OnStar, has not said how or when it will dismantle its analog network, though it has not ruled out shutting off the service all at once. More likely, industry analysts say, the networks will be turned off in stages.

That’s cold comfort for Michael Farris. His wife, Vickie, drives a 2002 GMC Yukon and uses OnStar for routing help in unfamiliar areas and to talk hands-free with her cellphone using OnStar’s connection to the truck’s audio system.

The truck has about 40,000 miles on it and runs well, so Mr. Farris wants to keep it beyond 2008. He must now consider whether to sell it, find one of the few aftermarket alternatives, or go without.

“This thing we paid for is going to turn into a pumpkin,” Mr. Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., said. OnStar’s decision to use analog-only technology “was like putting an eight-track tape player into a new vehicle.”

OnStar’s decision to use analog networks made sense a decade ago when the service was started because they were the most pervasive and reliable. Even as digital networks expanded in recent years — their greater call capacities for a given amount of wireless bandwidth made them attractive to phone companies — analog networks were often the only ones working in rural areas.

Analog’s broader coverage was also a good reason for home security companies like ADT to use the networks, and now they are grappling with the ruling as well. They, like OnStar, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the F.C.C. not to sunset the analog network, the industry term for the phaseout.

OnStar created a Web site to alert customers to the coming changes. But for drivers with older cars, there is little more the company can do.

Critics, Mr. Farris included, say OnStar was negligent in continuing to install analog-only equipment before and after 2002 when it was clear that the phaseout of their supporting networks might be coming.

OnStar declined to make an executive available for this article, but in a statement said, “We at OnStar sincerely regret that we will not be able to provide OnStar service to vehicles with analog-only hardware after Dec. 31, 2007.” When asked why it continued to install equipment that could not be upgraded even after the F.C.C. ruling, the company said that “each vehicle has its own development and manufacturing schedule, not all vehicles will receive the same OnStar equipment at the same time.”

Dealers will upgrade some 2002-4 vehicles to work on digital networks if customers buy a three-year subscription to the Safe and Sound package at $199 a year.

The company would not say how many of its subscribers have analog-only or upgradeable equipment. But as many as half of OnStar’s customers, or two million subscribers, now drive cars that cannot be upgraded, according to Frank Viquez, an industry analyst at ABI Research.

Two-thirds of those cars will be sold or traded by their original purchasers by early 2008, leaving 500,000 to 700,000 OnStar buyers out of luck, Mr. Viquez said. G.M. plans to make OnStar standard in all its cars by the end of 2007. That will be too late for Mr. Farris, though, who feels OnStar and G.M. should have done more, switching to upgradeable technology far sooner.

“Those were $5 business decisions that are going to come back and haunt them,” he said. “It’s going to disillusion a bunch of G.M.’s best customers.”
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Old 02-13-2007, 05:20 PM   #2
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Bump. Just got our letter today notifying us that our 2002 Tahoe's OnStar will no longer work for 2008 and beyond.

--KC
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Old 02-13-2007, 08:39 PM   #3
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Anyone else find it hard to believe that they can't just swap out the hardware??
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Old 02-14-2007, 08:44 AM   #4
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I'm sure they could, but what would be their incentive? Are there really that many people with subscriptions?
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:23 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Beaverboy View Post
I'm sure they could, but what would be their incentive? Are there really that many people with subscriptions?
It would be interesting to see the subscriber numbers, but I would think that it's a high amount. (At least in the high hundreds of thousands)

It's the basic subscription that we have, if my wife were in an accident, it activates and calls the center which dispatches rescue, etc.... all things considered, it's cheap to have that level of a safety net.

That's no longer available to the analog units.

Since it's integrated with the ECU and other sensors (airbag, etc...) I would think upgrading isn't an option.

--kC
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:30 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by SubaruImpreza_power View Post
Anyone else find it hard to believe that they can't just swap out the hardware??

I'm sure they could, but who will foot the bill? Have you ever looked into how much dealerships charge for that equipment when a replacement piece is required? Everything would have to be updated, from the onstar antenna to the vehicles radio. And believe it or not they do not put those onstar brains in centralized locations so there would be quite a bit of labor associated with swapping over. I doubt its as easy as simply one or two new pieces, its all new wiring and everything. I feel sorry for people whos onstar will just "stop working".
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Old 02-14-2007, 01:58 PM   #7
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They should just buy the analog network.
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:03 PM   #8
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They should just buy the analog network.
"the" analog network?
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:08 PM   #9
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I'm sure they could, but what would be their incentive? Are there really that many people with subscriptions?
Millions of people.
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:36 PM   #10
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OnStar’s decision to use analog networks made sense a decade ago when the service was started because they were the most pervasive and reliable.
Maybe a decade ago, but we are talking about vehicles as new as 2002-2004. Digital networks have long since been the norm for at least that long. There's no reason why they could have equipped those vehicles with a dual mode receiver/transmitter that did both AMPS and CDMA. That way they could have had their analog coverage in rural areas and digital coverage in other areas and they wouldn't be affected by this ruling. I don't buy any cost argument as a reason why they didn't do this either since these components are cheap and very common.

At any rate, the idea that they should keep the analog networks around for because the company wasn't forward looking enough is laughable. It's about time we reclaimed that spectrum for something a little more useful. Analog transmissions are a waste.
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:55 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NYCshopper View Post
Mayday! Some Cars Will Lose OnStar Link (NYtimes.com)

"... But the operators will soon be signing off for some of OnStar’s longstanding customers. The dropped connection is a result a little-known decision by the Federal Communications Commission in 2002 that allows cellphone companies to shut down their analog networks beginning in February 2008."
Another example of the Federal Communication s Commission (FCC) making decisions that benefit big business and harm the everyday consumer. In the political environment that emerged following the 2000 U.S. presidential election, many FCC decisions and policies have promoted consolidation at the expense of healthy competition and broader service to all citizens (the same citizens to whom, btw, the entire radio frequency spectrum theoretically belongs).

The decision to permit shut down of the analog cellular network will negatively impact anyone who depends on the analog network (AN) for connectivity. Eliminating the AN not only relieves Verizon and others of the expense of maintaining it, but also hurts competitors that use/lease/time share on the network.

In sum, this change seems terribly ill-considered to me because if public interest is to be served. Accepting that the powers to be in Washington DC really mean what they say about national security, then the AN should stay in place at least until that time that both the digital and analog networks are fully or mostly redundant. After all, how's a person to make a cell phone call from a hijacked airliner (as happened on United Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville PA on 9/11/2001) without both digital and analog networks in place?



Last edited by Catsmeow; 02-14-2007 at 02:58 PM. Reason: Syntax
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:59 PM   #12
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allowing them to phase out analog coverage is good for the consumer because it frees up bandwidth. Eventually technology advances, and requiring the continuation of a dated system used by a selective group of people costs everyone that doesn't.
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Old 02-14-2007, 03:27 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by LastResort View Post
allowing them to phase out analog coverage is good for the consumer because it frees up bandwidth. Eventually technology advances, and requiring the continuation of a dated system used by a selective group of people costs everyone that doesn't.
If you're addressing my comments, let me clarify and/or reiterate that I'm not proposing that the analog network be supported ad infinitum, rather maintained long enough to serve the best interests of the public at large. It's just seems to me that having analog OnStar receiver sets legislated into uselessness as early as 2008 is a bit hasty and premature.

Reminds me of like the move to dump support for LORAN after the advent of GPS for wide area marine and aviation navigation.

Peace.


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Old 02-14-2007, 03:50 PM   #14
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Considering the massive amounts of bandwidth analog uses, and the fact that a perfectly viable alternatives has been available, I see no reason to support companies that fail to foresee the need to upgrade the product.
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Old 02-14-2007, 05:50 PM   #15
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It's been two years since I've even had a phone that could pick up on analog (and it's Verizon, the same network in question here.) I do occasionally go to some pretty out of the way places and really haven't had an issue with coverage. Even with my previous phone, the times when it would fall back to analog were pretty rare and those were mostly in situations where there was digital coverage, but it had some issues penetrating a building.

Don't overlook another good that comes from forcing people off AMPS. All the people that are currently on AMPS cannot be located by 911 service. Making these people upgrade could work out to their good in the end.

It's a mixed bag either way, but we should always be looking forward and not grasping to keep hold of the past. Regardless, the fact of the matter is, onstar used equipment that was already obsolete at the time of it's installation. There's no reason to shake up the transition to all digital because a company produces a sub-standard product.
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Old 02-15-2007, 12:53 PM   #16
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I see lots of lawsuits in the future.

Ed
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Old 02-15-2007, 03:22 PM   #17
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This is from October of last year... another company that uses the analog network...

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ADT will ask the FCC for a two-year extension to the Feb. 18, 2008, deadline. ADT, in a request to be filed by Thursday, will say that more than 1 million security-alarm customers across the United States continue to use equipment sending analog signals back to ADT and other alarm-monitoring firms.

Digital radios for security alarms have only been available for six months, from one vendor, and the security-alarm industry doesn't have enough qualified installation workers to convert all its customers to digital radios, said Phillip McVey, vice president of business operations for ADT North America.
--kC
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