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GM to end OnStar service in older cars because of wireless tech

General Motors has said that older versions of its OnStar automotive safety service will stop working as their wireless technology becomes obsolete.General Motors

If you own a General Motors vehicle made in 2014 or earlier, its built-in OnStar communications system is about to die.

GM is notifying car and truck owners that older versions of OnStar depend on an early wireless phone technology called 2G, which will be completely phased out by US wireless carriers by year’s end. AT&T has already scrapped 2G service so it can use the radio frequencies for advanced 5G services. The nation’s other two major carriers, T-Mobile and Verizon, are about to do the same.

A similar transition has already affected many 3G devices. Verizon is the only “Big 3″ wireless carrier that still offers 3G, but it says it will switch off both 2G and 3G service on Dec. 31.

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Few US residents still use 2G or 3G phones. But the technology is built into millions of older nonphone devices, such as home security systems, e-book readers, and medical alert bracelets. In some cases, these old devices can’t be upgraded and must be replaced; in other cases, companies have provided users with new hardware. For instance, Boston-based home security company SimpliSafe mailed thousands of do-it-yourself upgrade kits to its customers.

GM has no intention of offering replacement hardware for its 2G OnStar systems, which are built into the car. Instead, the company is advising OnStar subscribers to install a smartphone app that will deliver the same services. For instance, the app can detect the impact of a car crash and automatically place a call for assistance. Customers who switch to the app will also pay less for OnStar’s Safety & Security package. Instead of the usual $30, app users will pay just $15.

GM said that the shutdown will affect all model-year 2014 and older Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac connected vehicles and certain model-year 2015 GM connected vehicles. It will also impact brands that GM no longer markets, such as Pontiac, Saturn, Oldsmobile, Saab, and Hummer.

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Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.