Is the 3G free or what?

Is the 3G free or what?

My Tesla Rep said it was free
My Tesla Rep said it would cost me after 90 days
My Tesla Rep said it's free until we go to 4G
My Tesla Rep has no clue as to what they are saying

so, no one ever told us who's picking up the tab and the cost for this. We also don't seem to have any way to tether out? What's the real story?

drp | 11 January, 2013

You might ask one of the Tesla reps and see what they say.

Sorry. I couldn't resist

sergiyz | 11 January, 2013

The real story is they are working on it and have not announced anything specific yet.

gregv64 | 11 January, 2013

Basically it's free until they say otherwise, but you need to accept that could be at any time because they never promised you anything (except the sig customers, of course).

DTsea | 11 January, 2013

I hope it'll stay free with tech package. It was expensive....

Robert22 | 11 January, 2013

It's at least 90 days of free use even if they reach a deal, or until this isn't true anymore.

jat | 11 January, 2013

Once it isn't free, presumably I can get off the crappy AT&T network that has lousy connectivity everywhere I go.

portia | 11 January, 2013

I remember somewhere that it is free for the Signature holders for 1 year.

Robert22 | 11 January, 2013

Indeed, that's why the vocals sometimes sound like the artist is singing while driving at 60mph over a dozen or more evenly spaced speed bumps.

riceuguy | 11 January, 2013

@jat, I wouldn't count on that. At best it could be switched to T-Mobile (the only other major GSM provider in the US). The only good hope for getting off of AT&T is tethering, which will require that they enable wi-fi.

jat | 11 January, 2013

@riceuguy - my other phones are on T-Mobile, and I can add a data-only SIM to my family plan for $10/mo (2G cap before dropping back to edge, might not be enough streaming audio). I would be very surprised if the SIM wasn't accessible.

Anyway, it will probably be a few months before anything changes.

@portia - I think that was the Slacker Radio subscription - Signature gets 1 year, everyone else gets 3 months. I haven't heard any official answer on wireless connectivity yet.

portia | 11 January, 2013

on a sort of related topic, anyone know which carrier they are using now?
I was driving to Gilroy with my Verizon phone, and my husband's AT&T, and the bars on the car looked more like Verizon than AT&T.

jat | 11 January, 2013

I'm pretty sure it is AT&T. If they were using Verizon, they would have to have different hardware for international cars.

Robert22 | 11 January, 2013

GSM has been confirmed which means ATT or T-mobile. Board sentiment strongly favors AT&T as the likely carrier.

riceuguy | 11 January, 2013

AT&T has been confirmed I believe. I'm not so sure the SIM will be accessible, but the 1 year/3 mos. free for sig/non-sig is indeed data. Those have both been officially announced.

Alex K | 11 January, 2013

Take a look at this thread on

It shows exactly which wireless chips are being used (Sierra Wireless AR8550) by preproduction cars. The information is available on the diagnostic screen.

rwang | 15 January, 2013

It's AT&T

stevenmaifert | 16 January, 2013

There is a lengthy Telematics Services Subscription Agreement in the final MVPA. Basically, it says the service is free until Tesla gives us 30 day notice otherwise, and the service providers will be chosen by Tesla. The rest is left to the lawyers :)

Brian H | 16 January, 2013

Hm, seems choosing AT&T was about as clever as using Alpine for the Roadster audio.

olanmills | 16 January, 2013

Well AT&T has good 4G and LTE coverage in the Seattle, LA, and Bay Area.

RD7 | 18 January, 2013

Tesla confirmed AT&T when I asked about this a few months ago.

@olanmills, don't get your heart set on 4G. As I recall, the Sierra Wireless chip is 3G only, and does not support HSPA+ or the frequency bands AT&T uses for 4G. And Verizon is not an option either, unfortunately, as the chip does not support CDMA of any kind.

Theoretically, you could put in a T-Mobile SIM, but not sure you are going to get any better coverage, as bad as AT&T is. | 18 January, 2013

The likely reason Tesla picked GSM as it works almost world-wide, and they are selling cars world-wide. I think only Japan and Korea use home-grown solutions (not GSM and not CDMA). One reason the newest phones and features appear on GSM first is the ability to sell them world-wide. GSM market is about 5 times larger than CDMA.

This is not a statement that GSM is better than CDMA or the reverse, but it's more like the old Beta vs VHS battle. The one that sells the most usually wins and/or has a huge advantage. Some of the top CDMA phones now include all the GSM hardware so they can be used outside the USA, but that just adds cost and complexity to the design.

I also thought that Tesla some time back stated it will support 4G in a software update, but has never stated it would support LTE. That update might also need a carrier agreement, which could be why it's taking a while to hammer it all down and get a perfect answer. It will come.

ELECTRICFAN | 24 September, 2013

I picked up my car today and was told 3G was free for 3 months only. I was shocked because I asked about the 3G last month (August 2013) when I was considering purchasing, and was told clearly, without any qualification whatsoever that the wireless 3G was totally free and Tesla would never ask me to pay for it. I was extremely impressed and said so. But apparently - SHOCK - Tesla is not immune to puff-talk!!! Now I find this thread (shame on me for not volkerizing sooner!!!). Given how old this issue apparently is, I'm a little disappointed in Tesla - this two-answer to one question that appears to be "standard" is not worthy of such a great car and company.

Gizmotoy | 24 September, 2013

I was told by a rep in the showroom as recently as this weekend that the 3G was free, and would be for at least a year. However, I've seen enough of these threads to know that it doesn't look like Tesla has any idea what it's going to do with the data plans.

Take away the data plan and a lot of what I think is cool about the car disappears. Given what AT&T charges for data plans, I foresee an expensive monthly bill on the way.

jfewins | 24 September, 2013

I was told a week ago at delivery of the car that it would be free "forever". I specifically asked this.

ks-man | 24 September, 2013

I was told two weeks ago when I was ordered that it was free until Tesla figured out their long term plans with respect to coverage which they've been working on for over a year. I was also told that you are guaranteed a minimum of three free months regardless when their new plans come out. She also said that they've been saying the same thing for at least 18 months and hasn't heard anything about them coming closer to offering a new plan.

Most people assume it will be free until Tesla figures out a contract that includes 4G.

DonS | 24 September, 2013

I kind of figure that 3G will continue free for quite awhile, but at some point 4G will be required and it will no longer be free.

cbassdriver | 24 September, 2013

I was told that 3G is free for life but 4G will have a charge. I was also told that the cars have much if not all of the 4G hardware already onboard.

mario.kadastik | 24 September, 2013

When I took a test drive last week the Geneva rep told me that it's free because they haven't reached a global deal yet. Once they do they'll introduce data plans and if you don't want you'll have to use your phones tethering to access the web. I guess the telemetry etc data and updates will still come for free.

michael1800 | 24 September, 2013

The cars don't have 4G hardware. 3G data is free until Tesla rolls out the data plans in conjunction with AT&T. They've stated tethering will be functional in cars before the roll out the data plans so people can opt to tether to their phones network as an option. After the rollout, the free 3G will likely be limited to 3 months. As Mario stated, telemetry and updates will still be available via the 3G data connection even if you don't have a data plan.

As far as why they went 3G/GSM, others have addressed that above. Coverage was deemed more important than speed--3G is sufficient for maps, music...slow browser speed is not a data connection speed issue).

Captain_Zap | 24 September, 2013

I have been thinking that they were holding back on the roll-out the 3G subscription plan until all the cars were updated to be Wi-Fi capable so that people could use their own hot-spots, phones and home Wi-Fi for connectivity. People wanted that choice.

There was a "leak" hidden on a webpage 6 months or so ago about the plan pricing and there was plenty of complaints here about the pricing plan.

On the other hand, Tesla may have decided that it is more trouble than it is worth to set up for billing and to deal with the regulations regarding the re-sale of cellular service.

Originally, the Signatures were supposed to get one year of free service and Production cars were supposed to get 3 months free.

jfewins | 24 September, 2013

Umm, how in the world am I going to use the GPS that I paid for with the tech package if there is no data to feed the maps? Doesn't make sense to pay for GPS and then have to pay to use it. It doesn't seem that data should be an option for which one will have to pay (if they already paid for the Tech Package with GPS)

PapaSmurf | 24 September, 2013

So if I already have tethering with my iphone data plan, can I safely ignore this issue?

BillPlanoTexas | 24 September, 2013 are correct. Ignore it.

Thomas N. | 24 September, 2013

Well, ignore it until you get your first data bill on your iPhone where the maps, browser, TuneIn and Slacker just kill your bandwidth limits.

PapaSmurf | 24 September, 2013

I have 4 GB per month (paid by company) and i typically only use about half of it. Is the car really going to be that data intensive?

mario.kadastik | 24 September, 2013

Jfewins: afaik tech package comes with full navigation data that is uppdated over the air like the firmware is. Only some searches will require data access, not all of navigation so don't worry about that :)

Chris TX | 24 September, 2013

It would be nice to be able to select which carrier I want to use. Just have a module that gets swapped based on the radio tech (3G GSM, 4G LTE, 3G EVDO, etc.) and let the consumer worry about the bill. I'd happily add the car to my Verizon plan for $10 more a month. I really don't want AT&T and will probably just tether off my Verizon hot spot puck on longer trips.

riceuguy | 24 September, 2013

JamesM - It mostly just depends on how much you stream music. They're planning to do map caching when you're on wi-fi, so most map tiles will be just an occasional load. Without video, the browser isn't going to impact you much.

PapaSmurf | 24 September, 2013

Ok, so if my car is configured to connect to wifi when I am home, then it will download updates only during that time when it is most efficient from the data standpoint? Sort of like iCloud backups only occurring when it detects wifi and it is plugged in and it is locked?

Sorry for newbie questions. If the car is very data intensive while driving, I understand why Tesla might need to eventually charge for it. But i would hope they could optimize it for big data downloads only happening on home wifi or maybe when it detects Starbucks wifi hotspots. :-)

Gizmotoy | 24 September, 2013

@Captain_Zap: Care to mention what the leaked pricing looked like? Can't seem to turn up much with the search. $40/month range (AT&T's usual data plan cost)?

Brian H | 24 September, 2013

Updates are separate, and free. Not on the plan.

riceuguy | 25 September, 2013

Gizmotoy...I was the original's the thread:

Cliff's Note version: $30/month, starting April 2013. Clearly didn't work out as planned! At this point, I'd guess that they went back to the drawing board to negotiate perhaps a free or low-cost 3G option and a paid 4G option.

stevenmaifert | 25 September, 2013

If you don't sign up for a data plan, I presume the SIM card in the car gets de-authorized from the carrier's network. So, if you're not connected to a WiFi, and don't sign up for a data plan, how does Tesla send you over-the-air software updates?

Gizmotoy | 25 September, 2013

@riceuguy: Thanks for the info. I wonder if they went back to the drawing board after the uproar. They're somewhat at the mercy of AT&T, but I can certainly understand why people were upset. I'd be in without question for $10. $20, maybe. $30? Starting to get hard to justify.

That said, I have a nice unlimited package for my phone. Unfortunately for me, if I want to tether I have to drop down to AT&T's 2GB plan and pay more for the priveledge. :-/

To me, though, one of the coolest aspects is being able to check in on the car while I'm away. You obviously can't get that with tethering.

@stevenmaifert: In the agreement you sign when you place an order (and probably again on delivery) there's a telemetry section that essentially states that Tesla pays for 3G access in order to have a connection to the car. This is how they pull logs and push out updates. This will always be the case.

What they want to do is get you to start paying for the connection. This would be how the Google Maps and radio streaming would work. Should you choose not to pay for that, Tesla pays but cuts off your access. Presumably they'll be trying to work out some kind of low-cost, low-use, low-throughput deal with AT&T.

So, it's in Tesla's best interests to get as many people signed on to the data package as possible so they don't have to pay for access.

TeslaOR | 25 September, 2013

I'm just greatly appreciative of getting free connectivity since March. Thanks Tesla. Whatever the final solution is, I hope we all can take advantage of the "family" plans out there. (or that its of comparable cost) Much cheaper than separate subscriptions for each device once you have 3 or more devices connected.

mario.kadastik | 25 September, 2013

I'm somewhat confused by various statements on the navigation. From what I have understood, the navigation in the Tech package is local in the car with regard to maps and has also a ton of location data. But for some extra location info it'd come from the google maps geotags etc that will go over the air. Also, the map updates were supposed to be free for a long while, right?

Looking now at the tech package description, this is what's included:

* GPS navigation system with onboard maps and free map updates for seven years

So the only thing you'd lose really is online streaming music and browsing. Nothing much else, right? Also I'm not sure you'd lose the phone app connectivity as that might use the Tesla telemetry connection.

However what I would happily pay for with regard to data plan is for being able to turn my Tesla into a local wifi hotspot for my phone. The reason I say this is that in EU roaming charges are horrendous so if I take a road trip, then the pan-EU no-roaming network would well be worth the cost of a monthly plan.

Gizmotoy | 25 September, 2013

@mario: There are actually two distinct maps that work in tandem. The instrument cluster uses Navigon (Garmin) maps that are stored in the car, no data connection required. The center console uses Google Maps.

You can use Google Maps to search for POIs, and when you select one to navigate to, the address (or location?) gets transferred to Navigon. The two displays are kept in sync as you travel.

Without a data connection, the center console map won't update, and you need to know the destination address to begin navigation.

Regarding remote access to the car: you're right. Given the paltry amount of data used, Tesla might comp that if you elect to forgo the connectivity plan. We just don't know for sure one way or the other.