Audi and Ford include WiFi hotspots in some of their models, but BMW maintains its high-performance reputation by offering an accessory for WiFi at LTE data speeds, the first time a car has boasted this type of connectivity.
BMW's LTE adapter snaps into any BMW equipped with a phone cradle dock in the console. Passengers will be able to connect their personal electronics, such as phones and tablets, to the WiFi hotspot and get data at LTE speeds. However, this adapter does not offer any data connection to a car's own dashboard infotainment electronics.
The adapter includes an 8 digit connection code, preventing other drivers from tailgating so as to leach off the hotspot while on the road. It also supports Near Field Communications (NFC), letting people merely hold their compatible devices next to the adapter to initiate the WiFi connection.
Drivers will need to plug a SIM card for an LTE data network into the adapter. In Europe, it is common for a phone company to offer multiple SIM cards for a single account, which might be more difficult to obtain in the U.S. The advantage of making the adapter SIM card-dependent is that it can be used in multiple markets.
The WiFi hardware is actually included in the adapter, not in the car. The adapter comes with a built-in battery, so that it can be used outside of the car for about an hour, according to BMW. An available kit will let owners plug the adapter into a USB port, keeping it powered up. That kit should also make it useful in BMW models without the cradle dock. Its default WiFi range is about three yards, suitable for a car's cabin, but it can be switched to a 10 yard range for more general use.
No pricing or availability has been announced for the U.S.