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OnStar readies telematics platform for global expansion

A hardware switch and GSM carrier agreement means that OnStar can grow its customer base in Europe, Latin America, and other countries.

After more than 15 years spreading beyond the U.S. into Canada and most recently China, OnStar is planning to expand its reach even further. The telematics company partnered with Telefonica, the world's third-largest mobile carrier, to make its emergency response and navigation technology available to countries that don't use CDMA networks.

Telefonica will help deliver OnStar's automatic crash notification, emergency services, turn-by-turn navigation, diagnostics, and remote mobile connectivity to consumers using its international GSM network. With 6 million global customers to date, the new partnership means that the GM subsidiary will be able to tap into new international car markets to gain more customers for its safety technology, and sell more vehicles.

Global expansion will be made possible by switching out the CDMA-based chips OnStar uses in the U.S. with ones that work on GSM networks. Many countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia only use GSM networks for mobile communications. However, the process was more complicated than just finding a new chip supplier. OnStar had to ensure the new hardware is compatible with its Advanced Telematics Operating Management System cloud platform, which manages vehicle and mobile device communications.

"Earlier this year we announced that OnStar is growing its global footprint," said Jon Hyde, director of OnStar Global Expansion, in a news statement. "This partnership is one of the vital first steps in that process. Telefonica's expertise in the global mobility market will help ensure our mutual success as we move forward."

Last year OnStar expanded into China. No specific details on plans, countries, or dates for service roll out were given. Telefonica operates widely throughout Europe and Latin America. Telefonica's agreement with OnStar will initially focus on providing OnStar services. However, the partnership could expand to include the development and creation of future offerings.

Correction: I goofed. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated, based on misinterpretations of email conversations, that OnStar planned to expand into Europe. OnStar has not announced into which regions it will expand.