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GM’s OnStar, Partners Offer National Wireless Program

General Motors’ OnStar announced it will team up with Bell Atlantic Mobile, GTE Wireless and other cellular carriers to offer re-packaged nationwide cellular service to car buyers.

Drivers who purchase GM’s OnStar service (which provides in-car emergency equipment and monitoring) will be offered nationwide hands-free cellular service as well as Internet access later this year through the new cellular network.

A spokesman for GM said that BAM and GTE will be the lead carriers who will form a “consortium of cellular carriers across the country to provide OnStar with national service.” OnStar then becomes a reseller of cellular minutes to its customers who are equipped with OnStar. “They can make personal calls from the car to anywhere in the country handsfree and they just pay one OnStar bill,” he said.

Cellular charges will be competitive with other carriers, he said.

OnStar offers GPS/cellular equipment for emergency and convenience use on 29 GM models. It also hosts 24-hour call-in centers that can dispatch emergency assistance and other help. There are currently more than 100,000 OnStar subscribers. Through the new nationwide cellular network, GM will offer voice-based e-mail and limited Internet access later this year under its Virtual Advisor program, announced last November. Subscribers will receive personalized news headlines, sports scores, stock quotes and weather updates.

“We estimate that over the next three years, OnStar will be available in more than four million vehicles nationwide,” said Chet Huber, general manager for OnStar. “This new communications capability allows OnStar to gives its subscribers a broader, more productive range of services.”

He added “with 75 million cell users in the U.S. today, and market research indicating that 50-to-80 percent of that cell use occurring in the vehicle, this represents a logical and significant next step in the growth of OnStar.”

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