3G-only Teslas to lose connectivity due to AT&T. What you can do

October 18, 2021

By Nuno Cristovao

First, we have to start off with the positive here, as this isn't Tesla deprecating older vehicles. It's due to AT&T turning off their 3G network, which Tesla uses.

Huge props to Tesla for maintaining cars for so long. Unlike many other tech companies, they don't add vehicles to a vintage or obsolete list. Tesla still delivers updates to the original 2012 Model S cars today. For free. 9 years later.

Early Tesla vehicles to lose cell connectivity

And support isn't ending yet. Tesla will continue to support these vehicles with software updates over WiFi.

There's no other manufacturer on Earth that would do that. We as consumers are always pushed to the newest models. Not always because of hardware advancements, but because manufacturers often only make new features available on new models.

The reason some older Teslas are losing cellular connectivity isn't any fault of Tesla's. It's a matter of technology just moving on. In the US, all Teslas connect to AT&T's cellular network. It has been this way since the original 2012 Model S. Back then 3G provided some of the fastest speeds over cellular and most cellular connected devices used 3G modems, including the modem in early Teslas.

Unfortunately, starting in February next year, AT&T is turning off their 3G service across the country. Cellular data will only be available on LTE and 5G.

This problem isn't unique to Tesla. Any device unitizing AT&T's 3G network will fail to connect come next year. This includes other devices like older cell phones and cellular iPads.

An always available data connection is one of the big reasons Teslas are popular and exciting. You can stream music, browse the web, turn on your climate remotely and receive real-time traffic. It'll even notify you if any doors or windows are left open. So when this connection goes away, it does take away part of the appeal the car initially had.

Luckily for owners, Tesla is giving owners plenty of options here, some free, some not so free, but a good value nonetheless.

Connect Via WiFi

First, your car will not be obsolete, Tesla will continue to provide updates to your vehicle. The cellular modem may be outdated and unable to connect, but your car will still be able to connect via WiFi to your local network.

All the functions your car was able to perform over it's cellular network will still be able over Wi-Fi, which includes downloading software updates. Of course, WiFi doesn't do you much good if you want to stream music while driving.

Connect Via Hotspot

With software update 2020.48.37.8, Tesla added some new capabilities to help with this transition and give owners more choice. Teslas normally turn off WiFi once you shift into Drive or Reverse, since it's no longer needed. However, with this update, Tesla introduced 'Remain Connected to Wi-Fi in Drive', a mouthful of a name, but a great feature. This allows your car to keep WiFi on after shifting into Drive. This will allow owners to share their phone's data connection with the car via a hotspot.

Using a hotspot connection will give your Tesla the same capabilities it had when connecting over a cellular network since these cars have a lifetime subscription to Tesla's Premium Connectivity package. Even though you'll be using a hotspot to connect, you'll remain with access to satellite-view and traffic visualization, which is normally not available when using a hotspot (when you're not subscribed to Tesla's Premium Connectivity).

Modem Replacement

Since it's only the cellular modem that is outdated, Tesla will be offering an option to get it replaced with a LTE and presumably 5G capable modem, giving your car many more years of a cellular connection, which is likely to outlast the car.

Tesla will be offering the cellular modem replacement for a very reasonable fee of $200 in the US.

Upgrading MCU

Lastly, there is another option that Tesla is offering that will give you more than just a modern modem. You'll be able to upgrade the MCU in the vehicle and not only upgrade the cellular modem, but also the WiFi chip, and the processor that powers the media center.

At this point, technology has evolved quite a bit and using the touch screen on a MCU 1 vehicle has become quite slow. Upgrading the MCU will provide a much better experience on par with the latest Model 3 and Model Y vehicles.

Upgrading to MCU 2 will also bring a slew of new features that haven't been available in MCU 1 vehicles because of its limited processing power. Adding the MCU 2 introduces features such as Tesla theater, many games such as Sky Force Reloaded and Cuphead, improved driving visualizations, Tesla Caraoke, an improved web browser and more.

The price of upgrading your MCU is quite a bit more expensive, but you do get a whole lot more as well. Although all the new features are nice, the biggest is the improved performance and responsiveness of the touch screen.

The cost to upgrade the MCU to MCU 2 is $2,000, which includes parts and labor.

Which Cars are Affected?

Only vehicles equipped with a cellular modem that is only capable of a 3G connection are affected. If your vehicle has an LTE or LTE and 5G modem, then you remain unaffected. Tesla used 3G-only modems up until 2015.

If your Tesla was built before June 2015 and you haven't upgraded your MCU, then you may be affected. You can reach out to your local service center to confirm whether AT&T's decision to disable its 3G network will affect your vehicle.

View Your Cellular Modem

In update 2020.48.37.8 Tesla is also displaying additional information about your car's modem to you. If you navigate to Controls > Software and tap 'Additional Vehicle Information', your car will now display what kind of modem your car has installed and which cellular networks it's able to connect to.

We hope this will be a feature that will be rolled out to other vehicles as well. Some vehicles feature LTE only modems, while others contain 5G modems as well. Letting owners know which modem is in their vehicle and which networks it can connect to is a worthwhile addition.

Tesla Model S UI coming to 2022 Model Y, possibly all Teslas

December 8, 2021
Future Feature

By Nuno Cristovao

When the refreshed Model S was revealed this summer, we were introduced to brand new user interface. An interface that was different from all other Teslas.

Tesla Model S UI
Tesla Model S UI

The feature set of the new software is essentially the same as other Tesla models, minus any features that are exclusive to the refreshed Model S, such as Active Road Noise Reduction.

However, the new UI does bring some capabilities that make it easier to use and more versatile.

Some of the biggest changes in the UI include customizable buttons along the bottom of the screen.

It also introduces the ability to drag and dock windows to different parts of the screen.

There are many smaller changes as well, such as a mini music player that sits on top of the map. The mini player gives you quick access to music controls used most often, such as skip and pause.

The new Model S and Model X contain Tesla's latest infotainment hardware, known as MCU 3. It features a more powerful processor, the AMD Ryzen, instead of the Intel Atom processor that is used in MCU 2.

MCU 3 gives Tesla the ability to have a richer UI. The animations in the new UI are smooth and fluid when dragging windows and tapping buttons.

Up until recently Tesla's MCU 3 was exclusive to the new Model S and Model X, however recent Model Y vehicles coming out of China now also include the new MCU.

Although new Model Ys in China now feature Tesla's latest MCU, they are still running the same UI that is found in all Model 3 and Model Y cars.

The speculation began whether these Model Ys would be upgraded to run the new UI that is found in refreshed Model S vehicles. Since they use the same hardware, they should both be capable of running the same software.

New User Interface Coming

A new document that was presented to the European Union outlines changes coming to the Model Y. The document confirms that new 2022 Model Y vehicles, known as V20 will indeed support the new user interface that is used on the new Model S.

The new interface will need to be adapted to a slightly smaller screen since Model Ys have a 15" screen instead of the Model S' 17" screen. However, the bigger adjustment and likely the reason why new Model Ys are not running this new UI yet, is because the software still needs to be adapted to support a single screen.

Since Model 3 and ModelYs only contain a single screen, all the information that is included in the Model S' intrument cluster needs to also appear on the Model Y's main screen. This includes information such as the car's visualizations, speedometer and more.

It's not clear whether visualizations in the Model Y will be permanently docked to the side of the screen like they are in current Model Ys, or whether Tesla will treat them as an app and let you move them around or even hide them.

Current Model 3 / Model Y

The big question on everyone's mind is whether current Model 3 and Model Ys will support the new UI.

There has been no official word from Tesla or Elon Musk, but we expect that this question will be asked more often and Tesla will provide an official answer in the future.

There are various possibilities and reasons why Tesla may or may not support the new UI on current vehicles.

The first possibility is that Tesla will support the new UI on current vehicles, but it will require an upgrade to MCU 3.

This won't be a cheap upgrade, likely in the $2,000-$3,000 or more range, but there would be additional benefits by upgrading the MCU as well, such as faster rebooting, faster loading of apps and even new features that may be exclusive to MCU 3.

The other two possibilities are more obvious, either Tesla will support the new UI on MCU 2 or they won't.

There is currently speculation and good arguments for both sides.

Up until 2017 Tesla was releasing vehicles with MCU 1. All Tesla UI updates in the past have applied to MCU 1 and MCU 2 vehicles. Of course, there are some features that are exlusive to MCU 2, like Tesla Theater, but the look and feel of the interface is the same across the vehicles.

It's possible that Tesla will follow a similar approach and make the new UI available to all.

There are other smaller reasons, such as Elon saying that Auto Shift is coming to all Teslas. That feature is exclusive to the new UI thus far.

There are various other reasons that lead us to think that Tesla may bring the new UI to all vehicles. This may mean that some features such as window dragging or window docking get dropped, but it's very much possible we'll see the new UI in all Teslas.

As many reasons as there are for Tesla supporting the new Model S UI on older Teslas, there are just as many reasons why Tesla won't be able to.

It's obvious that the new interface requires more horsepower, more than MCU 1 or maybe even MCU 2 can deliver. The UI lets you drag apps around. It lets you have multiple apps on screen at the same time, but these more intensive features could be removed for vehicles that may not be able to handle them.

Perhaps the most convincing reason for the new UI not becoming available for all vehicles is that Tesla engineers have said MCU 2 isn't capable of running the new interface. These comments were made by a couple Tesla engineers, so it's definitely not official by any means. They were also said when the new Model S was released this summer, so it's possible a lot has changed since then.

One thing is for sure. Tesla has a history of supporting older vehicles, regardless of the model year. In fact, Tesla still delivers updates to the original Model S that was released in 2012. If Tesla can find a way to bring the new UI to all Teslas, then they most likely will.

Elon tweeted just yesterday that Tesla will be releasing a Holiday Update this year with many 'cool' features. Who knows what's in store for us. However, just like Christmas, lets temper our expectations and be thankful for anything we receive.

Upcoming Release

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Although we share official Tesla release notes, we are not affiliated with Tesla Motors. We are Tesla fans and supporters.

Upcoming Release

View the release notes for the upcoming version 2021.44.

Confirmed by Elon

Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.

Days Until Next Release

0

We expect version 2021.48 to be released imminently.

Subscribe to be notified when new software is released.

Subscribe

Subscribe to be notified when new software is released.