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AT&T, ZTE Transform Cars Into WiFi Hotspots With Mobley

AT&T and ZTE are offering a new device called Mobley, which can turn almost any car into a WiFi hotspot.
New York Auto Show: Cool Cars With Hot Tech
New York Auto Show: Cool Cars With Hot Tech
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AT&T and ZTE (which is looking to expand in the US market) are teaming up to make cars more connected with this week's launch of the Mobley, a compact wireless device that plugs into a car and allows up to five devices to connect to AT&T's 4G LTE wireless network.

The Mobley plugs into and is powered by the vehicle's onboard diagnostics port (OBD-II). The company says it should work with most vehicles made from 1996 onwards.

AT&T is making the device available free with a two-year agreement, or for $100 with no annual contract. Mobley can be added to the company's Mobile Share Value plan for an additional access charge of $10 a month.

Users also have the option to connect the device, which runs off of a Qualcomm MDM9215 processor, with a DataConnect plan for a monthly charge of $20 for 1GB or $30 for 3GB of data.

"The ZTE Mobley is our first WiFi plug-in for the car. It's great for everyone -- families, entertainment enthusiasts and professionals," Chris Penrose, senior vice president of AT&T Mobility's Internet of Things (IoT), division, wrote in a Sept. 8 statement. "It allows multiple WiFi-capable devices to connect to AT&T's 4G LTE network, making it perfect for anyone on-the-go."

Networks can be customized through AT&T's WiFi manager homepage, and there is no need for any additional cables or even an on/off switch. When the car is turned on, the WiFi hotspot brings the Web into the car.

The announcement is one part of a trio of IoT-enabled technologies AT&T announced this week. The other two include a wireless tracking device for luggage, which was developed in tandem with suitcase manufacturer TUMI, and a connected wheelchair produced by Swedish firm Permobil.

The TUMI Global Locator is real-time data appliance that gives users information regarding the location of their luggage or other travel bags by using GPS, GSM, WiFi, and Bluetooth technology to provide specific location information through a mobile application.

[Read about an unexpected downside to WiFi hotspots.]

The device and mobile application are planned for commercial release in the fourth quarter of 2015 and will be sold at TUMI collection stores and on TUMI's website, according to a joint statement.

In order to maintain observance with major airline regulator policies, the device is compliant with Federal Aviation Administration rules. (For instance, it can shut off in-flight and turn back on upon landing.)

"In today's digital world of connected devices, smartphones, and tablets, we saw a great opportunity to support consumers' desire to remain connected to all parts of their lives, including their luggage and bags they use day-to-day," Jerome Griffith, TUMI's president and CEO, said in a statement. "We are excited to be working with AT&T and LugTrack to bring this exciting new travel solution to market."

The worldwide IoT market will grow from $655.8 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020, according to a June report from IT research firm IDC, with devices, connectivity, and IT services will make up the majority of the IoT market.