Gee, thanks, GM! - Onstar analog to go silent

fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
Saw this item in the New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/automobiles/19ONSTAR.html

As of the beginning of the year Verizon Wireless, the provider of the Onstar signal will shut off their analog network. GM knew this as far back as 2002 yet for two years continued to build cars with analog Onstar.

"OnStar declined to make an executive available for this article, but in a statement said, “We at OnStar sincerely regret that we will not be able to provide OnStar service to vehicles with analog-only hardware after Dec. 31, 2007.” When asked why it continued to install equipment that could not be upgraded even after the F.C.C. ruling, the company said that 'each vehicle has its own development and manufacturing schedule, not all vehicles will receive the same OnStar equipment at the same time.'"
Nice....

"Dealers will upgrade some 2002-4 vehicles to work on digital networks if customers buy a three-year subscription to the Safe and Sound package at $199 a year."
Swell.

"The company would not say how many of its subscribers have analog-only or upgradeable equipment. But as many as half of OnStar’s customers, or two million subscribers, now drive cars that cannot be upgraded, according to Frank Viquez, an industry analyst at ABI Research."

Now remind me again why GM is having problems with market share. Onstar is one of the few services that might entice me to look at a GM vehicle these days. Seeing how they look out for their customers probably tossed that thought away.
2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
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Comments

  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganMember Posts: 14,014
    WOW, that is interesting. If GM, doesn't take care of its customers they will lose more. I can't believe Rick Wagoner, is not addressing this problem to make sure to retain customers who buy GM, because of Onstar, and most importantly it's the right thing to do. A business blunder on GM's part. :mad:

    Rocky
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Yeah. I mean I've been ticked off enough with GM for keeping the technology to themselves and then they screw up the technology? Oy!

    I would be very happy to have Onstar. Was just waiting for them to put out a product that both met my needs and seemed appealing. Still waiting, though I'll admit that things like the G6 hardtop convertible are getting closer. Now I'm back into the I'm not sure I can rely on them track.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganMember Posts: 14,014
    Well that article sure does make somebody thinking about a GM, product wonder. I'm really surprised Wagoner, hasn't stepped in.

    Rocky
  • jrdwyerjrdwyer Member Posts: 168
    OnStar does have a pretty strong following, so abandoning customers with analog only hardware is somewhat damaging.

    Also, analog does provide better service coverage in areas without good cell tower abundance (rural area and a lot of the West). Of course, this is more of a carrier issue.

    Too bad they didn't think to make OnStar better. My in-laws would have kept the service after the free year had there been a phone touchpad in the car. They complained the voice system would not dial because it could not understand their slightly NE accent.

    I suppose the typical demographics of an OnStar customer shows they get a new car every 2-4 years and hence it is not a big issue to GM.
  • obyoneobyone Member Posts: 7,841
    Course GM could always offer free upgrades for current subscribers.....yeah right!!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,261
    Try Comcast. I can't see HBO without a digital box! There was a message along the bottom of the screen telling me I had to convert to digital or else I won't be able to see HBO! Geeze, right before the new season of "The Sopranos" which starts April 8th!
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Yeah we had to go digital on our cable systems a while ago here if you wanted any kind of good services. I wish I could get Direct TV here in Manhattan but I am stuck with Time-Warner :(

    -mike
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    GM has no control over the network. I am sure they kept the analog as long as they could. It has superior range and sounds better than any of the digital networks. It is being abandoned because it is more expensive to maintain. Plus uses more of the precious bandwidth. There are thousands of customers in rural communities that will no longer have Cell service after they shut down of analog cell service.

    The vehicles equipped with Onstar digital with have a much decreased range. To me the whole reason for Onstar is if you have a problem in a remote area. Your digital Onstar will not work anyway. Isn't progress grand????
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    I still bet there is a way to put an alternate digital cellular device in that would work with the original onstar. Even if Onstar has no control over the fact that the analog system is going away, it is going to look bad for them.

    -mike
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    There is no doubt GM will take the flack. Same as the little Cell companies in No-wheres-ville America. Not many folks have been able to hang onto their analog cell phones. Those that have will one day give it a try and have no service. If GM offers to update with a service contract, that should be sufficient. I have Onstar in my GMC PU truck. I have never even turned it on. The dealer tried showing me how to register and no one answered. I would not have bought it if it was not part of some package. A waste of money in my book. I would not extend the service after the year was up. Just another option that continues screwing you long after you buy the car.

    PS
    I have a salesman friend that has kept up the service on his old vehicle mount analog phone because it is the only service that works going out across the desert. He will be shot down also. Blame the FCC, Verizon and Cingular. They pushed for this and the FCC buckled to big money pressure. The Cellular system I installed in Prudhoe Bay Alaska will probably stay online. I think they are getting an emergency extension. Digital has such a limited range that it is impossible to cover the area without analog. Bandwidth is not an issue in the Arctic. Over 50% of the customer base are using analog vehicle mount phones.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    My FIL bought a used Avalanche (06') not too long ago and he was telling me that Onstar packages can get up to as much as 110 bucks a month!?!? Who the heck is going to pay that much, when a cell phone does 90% of what Onstar can do for half the cost?

    I guess the customer service is atrocious and the signal is poor (He is on Cape Cod) to boot. Doesn't sound like something I'd waste my money on... :sick:
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    My guess is that in 5-7 years digital will go away and they'll have small SAT phones for personal use... How you like them apples?

    -mike
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    The service is provided by the cellular carriers. So it should be equal to or better than a hand held low power cell phone. The most expensive service I was offered was $34.95 or $399.95 per year. That included a tie-in if I had the GPS NAV system. I did not buy any of the plans.

    I don't know about Cape Cod. I can tell you the Cell service in San Diego is anything but great. As long as you are in the line of sight of a tower it is fine. That is unless there is heavy usage. Then you get cut off. I think this whole thread is blaming the wrong entity. Tell me one Cellular company that will upgrade your analog phone for free, when the cells get shut down.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    I think I am the last person on Earth who has never owned a cell phone but that does sound pretty cool...
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    It is available now and has been for several years. The Iridium satellite network went on line in the 1990s. They promptly went broke and the DOD took it over as they were using it extensively. I know lots of companies that use them in Alaska. It is expensive but you don't lose the signal 5 miles out of town like you do with GSM, G3 or even worse the PCS 1900mhz systems. If you must be connected at all times it is the ONLY option I know of.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Oh I know they exist. But what I'm saying is the cost will come down to where they will replace cell phones at some point I think.

    -mike
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    I doubt it will be soon that it will compete with land based cell service. Satellites are expensive to launch. I imagine they will retrieve and rebuild them over time. The life expectancy is about 8-10 years. It is under a buck a minute now. It was $7 per minute when they went online. We used to provide bush telephones on UHF and VHF until the sat phones came about. Even at the high cost per minute it was cheaper than installing and maintaining a bush phone. We got about $4000 per month for providing one line in a remote location. Plus a $1.80 per minute long distance. Phone service is so cheap now.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Interesting stuff, look how much it has come down from $7/min to $1/min. I remember when cell service was $1/min! I think it'll just keep coming down lower and will eventually replace land based phones, think of the infrastructure that could be eliminated, the maintenance, the salaries, etc.

    -mike
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    I think it'll just keep coming down lower and will eventually replace land based phones, think of the infrastructure that could be eliminated, the maintenance, the salaries, etc.

    Oh no, more people that will end up working McJobs or become drug dealing, riotous, prostitutes!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,261
    Hey, we got something in common!
  • electron2002electron2002 Member Posts: 4
    Actually, you're a bit off there. GM didn't keep the Technology to themselves. Acura, Audi, Subaru (though previously affiliated with GM), and VW all have offered OnStar in their products. Also OnStar is currently being used in Lexus vehicles under the name "Lexus Link", though it is only a name change and is in fact OnStar.

    Overall though, I have a hard time blaming GM. Their decision to use the analogue system was a good one when they started OnStar. Had it been known, at that time, that the FCC would fold like a card house and let the cell companies shut down analogue cell systems. Then you could blame them. In the late 90's when OnStar was being developed they had no indication that analogue would be going away in the foreseeable future.

    The only fault with GM I can see is that they should have provided for an upgradable system when they launched OnStar.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Anyone designing a system needs to take into account the technology behind it. I'm sure they could come up with an aftermarket box that plugs in somewhere that would allow the analog/digit conversion. They simply don't want to support it and/or don't see a need to develop it.

    -mike
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    are hilarious! Every time you turn around more people are losing their jobs and being forced into a life of prostitution! :-P

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    You say this like prostitution is a bad thing! :)

    -mike
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    Well apparently you have the choice of drug dealing instead, if you so choose! :-P

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • csnord6cocsnord6co Member Posts: 3
    Does that mean On-Star cannot eavesdrop anymore on the analog customers once the digital change has been made?
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    My post was 100% sarcasm... :D
  • mak12mak12 Member Posts: 1
    I just got my "dear valued customer" letter telling me that at the end of this year my OnStar will be useless with no possible way to upgrade. This isn't the last time that communications protocol will change and GM needs to convince customers that they will provide a path to stay wired without trading in their cars. The smart engineers at GM could solve this one if they were asked to. Looks like my upgrade path is to get a Garmin gps and a bluetooth headphone for my mobile phone. Next time protocols change I can upgrade without buying a new car.
  • noobie1noobie1 Member Posts: 326
    Mark;
    Ditto. I got the same letter. What a cynical move with that coupon; They'll give us one year free service if we'll fork out for a new vehicle with the upgraded system. We bought the hardware to support the service and now they're essentially making it useless, as though it belonged to them. They don't seem to have any sense of loyalty to their customers, and calling us "valued customers" is shameless lip service.

    -David
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    I think you will see the same kind of problem with the NAV equipment in the next few years. You already have the outdated CD NAV being phased out in favor of the DVD. It will be only a short time until you have an SD sized card that takes the place of the DVD and these companies will not feel compelled to support a system more than 3 or 4 years if that long. Blame it on the major Cell carriers. GM had little influence in the Phase out of AMPS.

    What happens when Uncle decides he does not want every Tom, Dick and Osama using the GPS system? They make a few keystroke changes and your NAV system and cell phone are inoperative. Will that be the automakers fault? It was not that long ago the the government shut down some of the satellites for security reasons. We could not get more than one satellite on our GPS clocking system. We did have a backup over the fiber to keep us talking to the rest of the world.

    Onstar AMPS has gone the way of the 8 track, cassette & LP album. It will be less time for the next phase out of something you have gotten used to using.
  • noobie1noobie1 Member Posts: 326
    gagrice;
    I'm far less indignant about industry wide upgrades than those initiated by a single company which leave their customers high and dry. You don't seem to be giving the brains at GM much credit. If we here can conceive the viable solution of a converter/adapter, they certainly did as well. I remember in the late nineties newspapers were featuring reports about the coming conversion from analogue to HDTV. Initially the deadline was set for 2001. But after much outcry the option for a longer transition period was adopted. GM muckie-mucks don't live in a vacuum. They had to know the same would happen to analogue cellular service, all the while selling to their unsuspecting customers something they knew would soon be obsolete. If there were easy access to intra-corperate memos I suspect you'd find all contingencies were discussed long before any actual rumors of suspension out of the FCC. Indeed, it wouldn't surprise; they may have lobbied for it; It isn't hard to imagine someone there and then seeing the opportunity for a slight boost in new car sales.
    All this may seem like a paranoid or cynical perspective. More likely business cunning is being underestimated. "It's uncle's fault" is their plausible deniability. And unless one of our numbers is a hotshot legal eagle with the tenacity of a badger about all we can do is boycott the company and snivel about their disloyalty in forums like these. HA!
    After reviewing the wordy above: Isn't their failure to offer some converter/adapter for those who don't want to buy a new car the crux of the complaint?
    Thanks for your interest.


    -David
  • obyoneobyone Member Posts: 7,841
    for a 386? Where they simply don't make the components or have any current software that would actually work with the obsolete hardware.
  • noobie1noobie1 Member Posts: 326
    Hey Dean;
    How's it going. You really get around.
    You may be right, I've not look into the technology at all, nor heard anything about it from GM. But I did hear one unsubstantiated rumor (maybe here) that they'll convert your system if you sign up for three years service, $600. Their letter mentioned nothing about it, but I intend to call a dealer. If it's true it just shows anything's possible.
    You know, if they had told me in the summer of 2001 my system would likely be obsolete in five or so years, I would have bought it anyway. It's the deception that wrankles.

    -David

    HA! Odd, the similarity in this and being dumped!
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I agree with you.
    Cell phones have digital and analog capabilities, so it shouldn't be too hard for you to get an updated module for the Onstar system, if GM really wanted to correct the problem.

    The problem is, their bottom dollar is selling cars, not out dated options, so they see no need in it.
    Personally, I think OnStar should step up to the plate and make the modifications for those folks who want it.

    Give it a little time and you may see something in the aftermarket.
  • wlbrown9wlbrown9 Member Posts: 867
    IF you have On-Star Analog- Digital Capable system, you can get an upgrade. If you have older Analog only, no upgrade. We have a 2004 Envoy XL that is Digital Capable. 2 years ago the deal was get a free Digital upgrade with a 3 year non-refundable renewal. I had just renewed for 2 year with 3 free months that expires August 2007. I looked recently and I think the deal is $15 upgrade to Digital with a 1 year renewal (found a note that pre 2003 vehicles are probably analog only).

    Found another note in a discussion that MB is charging big bucks for their upgrade.
  • noobie1noobie1 Member Posts: 326
    Your info confirms mine gained yesterday by calling a dealer and OnStar. For upgrade, vehicle must be analogue/digital capable. OnStar can tell you if yours is plus other details by calling 888-466-7827.
    Just saw a headline on my ticker, "Sun Flares Could Damage GPS Satellites." Mmmm....

    David
  • obyoneobyone Member Posts: 7,841
    Out of curiosity, did you make the cutoff on the digital/analog?

    I never activated mine much to the salesman's demise as he kept calling for me to come in so that he could show me how to use it. All I replied was that when I first got the vehicle, you said,"don't worry about those buttons, they aren't important". Guess his sales manager told him differently....
  • noobie1noobie1 Member Posts: 326
    No, unfortunately not. I didn't make the cutoff by a year or two. But, I doubt I'll miss it much. I always found the voice recognition kind of clunky. Yet, the GPS part has some value in recovery/insurance. And, I locked myself out once.
    Anyway, considering they did make an effort to make it easy to upgrade on the later years I'm retracting 50% of my previous vehemence.
    Curious here too. I remember you switched to Nissan. How's that going? Compared to GM, how do they rate?

    -David
  • nan6nan6 Member Posts: 5
    We are very upset about not being able to update our 2002 Aztec. GM said the 2002 may have made in 2001 and there is no way to upgrade it. We especially purchased a GM auto because we could get Onstar, there are severe medical problems that require immediate assistance in case of problems. They tell me there is no way to update this but GM will give us $500.00 toward a new GM purchase. We are retired and have less than 50K miles on the car. Can't & don't want to purchase a new one. If you know of any CLASS ACTION SUITE we would love to join it. This is the 2nd time GM gave us problems, had to take them to Lemon court last time. We won the case then. How dare they complain about low GM sales when they treat their customers like this.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    Get a cell phone. Onstar is overpriced anyway. I refused to buy the service after the free year. Never turned it on or validated it. Worthless gadget in my opinion. Folks are going to find with digital Onstar the service is very limited anyway. That is no fault of GM. Analog had a much wider range. The analog systems I installed in Alaska would give good coverage out to 50 miles. Most digital networks are dead at 10 miles. You will not have good coverage with Onstar or cellular when you are off the beaten path and the major highway corridors. It is all about bandwidth. One analog call takes up more bandwidth than dozens of digital calls, possibly hundreds. The cell carriers wanted to do away with analog long ago. If Onstar served you well, be thankful while it lasted. Write your Congressman to force the cell carriers to leave a few AMPS channels online for the thousands of car phones that are analog. If you have a built-in car phone that is pre 2000 it is more than likely analog. It will no longer work either. A friend that is a salesman has kept his analog car phone along with his little digital cell phone for the many areas of So CA that the digital does not work. Some call it progress, I call it regress. And on top of all that analog sounds better. :sick:
  • sts1sts1 Member Posts: 1
    I just got my letter this week and fired off an e-mail to Cadillac. They did call me to say that it isn't something they can do anything about; i.e. the FCC is allowing Verizon to discontinue analog signals. Their compassion was to provide a $500 "loyalty" discount on a new GM car. My answer was that I should not have to spend $50K, just to get a digital On-Star service.

    I'm actually shocked that no high-tech-electronic genius (at GM or elsewhere) hasn't figured out how to solve the GM problem (now ours) that they "built in" to our cars. I can easily deal with paying for an upgrade or conversion; but GM, you haven't even scratched the surface to offer us that opportunity.

    My argument is not with Verizon or the FCC; the onus of resolution lies squarely with GM!

    I will gladly become part of any class-action suit, should that situation arise. Perhaps only if several thousand people shout loudly enough, GM will do the right thing.
  • obyoneobyone Member Posts: 7,841
    "Curious here too. I remember you switched to Nissan. How's that going? Compared to GM, how do they rate? "

    Bought in January '05 and to date no issues requiring a trip back to the dealer after 27k miles. Don't have any complaints on the Denali either as its been back only once to replace a shock sensor. Compared to my '00 rado which had a service folder over 1.5" thick I think I've been rather lucky.

    One thing that's offered on the Titan that's not available on the rados is the keypad entry. For $40 you can buy a wireless keypad which you can program with your code and install anywhere on the truck. I found it to be a lifesaver as somehow I find myself locking the keys in the truck more often. Think it might have something to do with age...lol!

    Back to topic. I can't understand why there is no upgrade path with owners who have the analog vs. analog/digital unless it was a fitment issue. And if they are offering $500 towards a new vehicle why not towards a new Onstar unit?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    My argument is not with Verizon or the FCC; the onus of resolution lies squarely with GM!

    I don't understand that logic. It is like someone being mad at GM for having an 8 track tape player, when they quit making 8 track tapes. Analog was slated to go away some time in the future just as regular TV. No one knew for sure when.

    I will say that it seems strange that they cannot come up with a digital replacement module. Given the very small number of folks affected it is probably not worth the cost of development. I remember being offered Onstar in late 1998 for my Suburban. If they made the units digital capable in 2002, how many vehicles are we talking about with analog only? The price you pay for being on the leading edge.
  • noobie1noobie1 Member Posts: 326
    "I will say that it seems strange that they cannot come up with a digital replacement module."

    BINGO!

    It isn't the change in technology people are upset about; It's GM's lack of responsibility in not providing any alternatives for upgrade for a fairly large number of their so-called "valued customers".

    -David
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    I could say the same thing. I bought a GMC hybrid PU in 2005. If they offer a real hybrid in 2008 that gets the mileage I was lead to believe I could get with this one. Would that not be the same thing. Every year they add more doodads that are not available on the old model. Keeps you buying a new vehicle every 3-5 years. Planned obsolescence. ALL auto makers are doing it.
  • 93pilot93pilot Member Posts: 1
    It's not that something new came out and I can't have it. Or someday it will work as promised. It's that the buttons on my car won't work and they won't fix it. These were key functions in my purchase decisions (of my 4 family cars, 3 are GM products). On my Suburban, it's just 3 buttons and the loss of telemetrics. On my Saab, it's the same plus the loss of a panel integrated phone with a phone book display etc. that's gone. Had I bought the BMW with the cell phone in the arm rest and they changed services, I'd just put in an appropriate phone. Cost at list price ~$200. GM's fix for me ~$80,000 (2 new cars, less $500 each for being a valued customer). Seems a retro fit to a digital signal shouldn't be terribly challenging.
  • carsandtruckscarsandtrucks Member Posts: 1
    Received a letter today from GMC that for $15 and payment of one year ONSTAR renewal, your dealer will convert yor analog ONSTAR to digital. GM listened and reacted. They will pick up the cost above the $15.
  • obyoneobyone Member Posts: 7,841
    "They will pick up the cost above the $15"

    Must be a $10 fix....
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    I seriously doubt that. It is not wanting bad press when they are trying to regain lost customers. You should be happy not sarcastic. That is what you wanted isn't it?

    My guess is at least $500 per vehicle to replace the analog system. It is not like they are buying 100k units. I would be surprised if there are 10k Onstar units that were sold back then. They have to pay the dealer to install them.

    PS
    DO you live in Hawaii? I would not have guessed that Onstar was available in the islands.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    I am sure that any move to come up with analog replacements is exactly the result of negative publicity to just dropping it. They will certainly garner more good will by providing digital replacements at low cost than any $500 off a new vehicle would ever accomplish.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
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