Mobile Wi-Fi systems in cars consist of local Wi-Fi network and (usually) a wireless Internet connection. car wifi network supports mobile personal devices, such as telephones and laptop computers. Please note that car Wi-Fi is separate from the internal network that cars use to control electronic systems such as braking and lighting.

Why People Want Car Wi-Fi

Automotive Wi-Fi systems replicate many of the same features of a home wireless network. They are useful for several reasons:

  • Many laptops, tablets, and portable media players lack the hardware needed to connect directly to cellular networks. These devices usually require Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet. Carpoolers who need to work while riding can especially benefit from Wi-Fi access.
  • Connecting phones to a Wi-Fi network allows their data traffic to go through the Internet connection instead of through the phone’s cellular network and data plan. Preservation bandwidth in the tariff plan for the phone can save money.
  • If you regularly (or even occasionally) travel to areas where there is no cell service or coverage, the mobile network will still have access to the Internet for directions or roadside assistance.
Four examples of Wi-Fi in a car
Lifewire / Elise Degarmo

Integrated and portable Wi-Fi systems

The mobile router serves as the centerpiece of the car’s Wi-Fi system. Mobile broadband routers provide Wi-Fi access for customers, as well as mobile Internet connection via cellular modem.

Integrated Wi-Fi systems use routers that you constantly connect to your vehicle. Some automakers install routers on their new cars at the factory, but many new cars still don’t have routers built in. Owners of these vehicles, as well as many older ones in use, can install mobile Wi-Fi systems with aftermarket hardware.

Aftermarket systems are installed in fixed locations, such as under the seat, in the trunk, or inside the front dash. Professional in-car Wi-Fi installers offer their customers warranties in the event of improper installation or connection. A person can also install their own car routers; the process is not much different from installing car stereos.

People may prefer to use portable routers to set up Wi-Fi in their cars instead of built-in ones. Portable routers you may also call tourist, function in the same way as built-in routers. But you can also easily remove them from the car. Portable routers make sense, especially if you want to share a device across multiple vehicles or for users who travel regularly and need a portable router in the places they travel.

Using the car’s Wi-Fi system

Once installed and enabled, the hardware in the integrated vehicle Wi-Fi system allows other clients to connect to its network. You can share files between devices just like other types of Wi-Fi networks.

To access the Internet from a car Wi-Fi system, you must obtain a subscription from the provider for this type of router. For example, in the US Autonet manufactures CarFi branded lines of automotive routers and related internet subscription packages.

To use your smartphone as an in-car mobile Wi-Fi system, your phone must function as a portable hotspot. Most providers require an additional subscription (and fee) to use your phone for modem, and some don’t support this option at all. (Contact your phone provider for details.)

What is OnStar?

OnStar became popular in the 1990s as an emergency service system for vehicles manufactured by General Motors. Using integrated global positioning and wireless communications, OnStar systems typically provide roadside assistance and track stolen vehicles.

The OnStar service has expanded over time to offer additional communications and entertainment services, including mobile Wi-Fi Internet access. New generations of OnStar technology include 4G LTE to support mobile Wi-Fi in some newer vehicles (service not available on older OnStar systems). Their mobile Wi-Fi requires a separate subscription with day, month and year options.

What is Uconnect Web?

Chrysler’s Uconnect service provides wireless access to the car’s audio system via Bluetooth . Like OnStar, Uconnect has grown with additional services over the years. The Uconnect Web subscription service allows you to use mobile Wi-Fi for vehicles that support it.

Security and protection of mobile Wi-Fi systems

Internet access in the car gives passengers more ways to stay connected with friends and families while traveling. While many people with mobile Wi-Fi also subscribe to individual emergency services through OnStar, Uconnect, or other providers, some choose to use the messaging and navigation apps on their own devices.

However, the presence of Wi-Fi and Internet connection in the car theoretically adds another source of driver distraction. Proponents of mobile Wi-Fi might argue that these services keep the kids busy and therefore reduce driver distraction, at least indirectly.

Hackers can attack mobile wifi like this same as home and business networks. Since they are usually on the move, attacks on the Wi-Fi signal itself would have to come from other nearby vehicles. Another possible vulnerability is public IP address of the network like other Internet access points.

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