updated 04:15 pm EST, Fri December 21, 2007
Analog OnStar to close
Some car owners and other users of General Motors' OnStar service may find themselves in trouble this February, the Associated Press notes. As of February 18th, the FCC will allow GM to halt the analog version of OnStar, in a bid to make its network all-digital. The difficulty is that while the approximately one million OnStar cellphones can be replaced, some cars built as late as 2005 can only access OnStar via analog signals, and have no support for GM's $15 digital upgrade. Meanwhile, some home alarm systems with OnStar must default to a backup connection without analog.
OnStar service is actually set to stop before the signals do, with the turn of the new year. This has caused some consternation, as while OnStar began warning its customers through its website in 2006 -- and directly, in recent months -- people have been left scrambling to find alternatives, particularly as the network's digital coverage is still smaller.
The OnStar closure is part of a larger trend though, as the FCC is allowing shutdown for conventional analog cellular services as well. Alltel, Verizon and AT&T will all phase out analog in 2008, Alltel finishing as late as September. The only analog networks likely to remain intact will be local ones, generally those that serve rural regions where bigger companies have not invested.