Since 2015 most new Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles have come with "OnStar with 4G LTE" built in - adding an AT&T-powered Wi-Fi hotspot capability to the classic car-integrated OnStar security and navigation features.
The basic idea is to keep your passengers entertained and online while underway.
But the rather limited and expensive data plans made this a worrisome prospect. A backseat full of kids each streaming their favorite show could blow through a data plan FAST after all!
To address this concern - yesterday (March 3rd, 2017) Chevy and AT&T began offering a new unlimited data plan for Chevy's with LTE OnStar built in.
Now you can use as much data as you want, for just $20/month!
But there are two big catches:
- You need to have a nearly new Chevy.
- The hotspot is only functional when the key is in the ignition, not all the time.
For RVers who are more concerned with data while stopped than while underway, this is a deal-killer.
But fortunately, there is an alternative - the ZTE Mobley.
With AT&T's Mobley Connected Car device installed, you can now get the same ridiculously cheap unlimited data plan - with no Chevy required.
And if you know what you are doing, you don't even need to keep a key in the ignition to stay connected - letting you stay online 24/7.
First Off - What is a Mobley Connected Car?!?
The Mobley is a small $99 device designed to plug into the OBD-II port found under the dash of most modern cars. When the key is in the ignition - the Mobley comes alive, creating a Wi-Fi hotspot to get 5 devices online while the vehicle is underway.
The Mobley isn't anything new - we wrote about it last May when it became the only "official" way to get unlimited hotspot data on AT&T.
But in the past to get an unlimited Mobley plan required also having an unlimited smartphone line with AT&T, and you also needed to be a DirecTV subscriber.
In the past few weeks AT&T has dropped both those requirements - and now AT&T has a promotional offer going until July 17th for a "Connected Car Unlimited Data Plan (standalone)" that does not require DirecTV or any other AT&T plan at all to activate a Mobley.
The standalone plan initially launched at $40/mo - and now AT&T has dropped it to match the Chevy pricing.
Yep - just $20/mo, for all-you-can eat AT&T! (plus taxes & fees, which vary by location.)
But there are still some catches and complications....
Using Mobley in an RV - 24/7
Most RVs lack an easily accessible OBD-II port - and even if you have one, who wants internet that only works while the engine is running?
But - there is a way around this that enables the Mobley to run 24/7!
Instead of using the OBD-II port, you can instead get an adapter that will power the Mobley directly.
In the past some enterprising individuals have hacked together adapters like this themselves, but now you can even find these power adapters on Amazon (just $37) - making it easy to keep a Mobley powered in an RV.
With the Mobley powered on continuously - you then need to change the default device settings to keep it from falling asleep every 2 hours. Once you do this, you have enabled 24/7 usage!
TIP: The ability to disabled the sleep mode was added to the Mobley via a firmware update. If you buy one, you may need to wait a day or two before the Mobley downloads the update before you can disable sleep mode.
Other Mobley Catches
One other big catch with the Mobley is that it is a relatively limited and out of date hotspot relative to newer AT&T devices like the Netgear Unite Explore. In particular, the Mobley does not support LTE Advanced carrier aggregation, so it will be slower than other modern AT&T devices in the same locations.
The Mobley also lacks any support for an external antenna.
And you can only have five simultaneous Wi-Fi devices connected to the Mobley directly, unless you add a Wi-Fi as WAN router to repeat the network.
And like most AT&T plans, the Mobley Unlimited plan is subject to "network management" slowdowns after 22GB of usage in a month.
But - people experimenting with the Mobley have been getting good speeds overall, and have not noticed much network management issues so far.
FAQ: Can You Transplant a Mobley SIM?
AT&T's Connected Car plan is intended specifically for the Mobley hardware, and AT&T can detect if the SIM card is moved into any other device. But since the plan is so new, it is unclear at the moment if they will do anything to block people from doing this.
We'll be monitoring forum threads to see if people are successful with transplants, particularly long term.
Getting The Connected Car Plan
We gave our MIA members a heads up about the new Mobley plan two weeks ago, and many were able to jump on this offer.
Now the Mobley is sold out in many locations, but we've heard reports that you can still track it down.
You should be able to get a Mobley at an AT&T store that has a Mobley in stock (many do not), via AT&T telesales, and some people have even been able to sign up and get a Mobley at a Best Buy store.
(Note, do NOT let anyone talk you into the similar looking Audiovox device as a substitute, it is NOT a hotspot device and will not work on this plan.)
If you have one of the new AT&T Unlimited Plus or Choice smartphone plans, you can add a Mobley onto the plan for $20/mo.
But even if you do not have any other AT&T plan, you can still sign up for just $20/mo!
Be sure to ask for the "Connected Car Unlimited Data Plan (standalone)" - most AT&T reps will not believe that the offer exists until you tell them to dig into the computer for it. We have multiple reports of success calling the Connected Car department directly at 866-595-1222 instead to activate.
This seems to be a ridiculously affordable way to get relatively unlimited data directly from AT&T - and we have had many reports that this has been working just great for folks who have tried it.
Hopefully AT&T doesn't wake up anytime soon and realize that a plan they intended for keeping kids entertained in the back seat on the way to soccer practice is actually being put to much more ambitious uses.
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For more info on the Mobley and this plan, check out:
- MIA Member Forum Thread: MIA Alert: Unlimited Data AT&T "Connected Car" Hotspot - $40/mo
- Review Center Page: AT&T Mobley by ZTE (Mobile Hotspot / Connected Car)
- Howard Forums: $40 Unlimited ZTE Mobley LTE Hotspot Setup and Troubleshooting
- Amazon Link: Mobley Power Adapter