A Tesla customer got a surprise yesterday when his brand new Model S arrived with a working 4G LTE data connection. Up until now, all Model S vehicles have delivered with a 3G internet connection (specifically AT&T HSPA+), despite the prevalence of faster LTE connections in recent years.
The internet connectivity of the Model S is one of its strongest selling points. It was the first production car to ship with a standard web browser, and it features a large 17-inch display, which can tax a sluggish internet connection. Slowly loading map tiles in the car’s navigation software have been a long time complaint against the existing 3G connection.
It has been rumored that Tesla vehicles have been shipping with disabled LTE connections for a couple months now. If true, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Tesla secretly deployed disabled hardware. Back in the fall of 2014, vehicles began shipping with Autopilot hardware, including forward looking radar and cameras, before Autopilot was even announced. Tesla eventually began to roll-out Autopilot package features in those vehicles, such adaptive cruise control, through later software updates. Automated highway driving is expected to deploy sometime this summer.
The LTE-enabled vehicle is running version 6.2 (2.4.239) of Tesla’s software. An internet speed test of the vehicle yielded 5.41 Mbps download and 18.45 Mbps upload speeds.
Curiously, the download speed is slower than the results I got on an AT&T iPhone with LTE disabled (5.41 Mbps on the Tesla vs. 5.92 Mbps on the iPhone), while the Tesla’s upload speed was considerably faster (18.45 Mbps on the Tesla vs. 1.52 Mbps on the iPhone). Another Tesla Motors Club member reported similar speeds to the LTE car in a late model P85+ that displayed “3G” on the screen, as did a P85D owner. It is possible that the LTE connection in the car is only partially enabled, despite the displayed LTE graphic.
Tesla did not immediately respond to questions about the LTE-enabled vehicle rollout.