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The partnership between GM Canada and Telus will improve the speed of in-vehicle services.

Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

Telus Corp. is partnering with General Motors of Canada to provide 5G connectivity to the automaker’s vehicles, a move that the companies say will provide faster and more reliable in-car services and that paves the way for autonomous driving.

The first GM vehicles with built-in 5G chips connecting them to Telus’s wireless network are expected to be introduced in 2025. In addition, GM vehicles from 2019 or later will be able to migrate to Telus’s 4G LTE network, the companies said.

The partnership between GM Canada and Telus will improve the speed of in-vehicle services such as navigation, mapping, music and video downloads and voice-enabled services, the companies said in a joint news release. It will also make wireless software updates faster, more reliable and more secure, they said.

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The announcement was made as telecoms compete for connected car deals amid the rollout of fifth-generation wireless technology, which promises to provide the near-instant response times needed for autonomous driving.

South of the border, General Motors inked an agreement with AT&T earlier this month that will see the telecom provide 5G connectivity to millions of the automaker’s vehicles. In Canada, BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada nabbed a partnership with Honda Canada last March to equip Honda and Acura vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi hotspots.

GM’s partnership with Telus marks the first time that the automaker has chosen a Canadian telecom partner, said Navin Arora, executive vice-president of Telus Business Solutions. Previously, GM’s connected car services were offered through a U.S. provider that accesses Canadian wireless networks on a wholesale basis.

The partnership between GM and Telus “lays the foundation for automation capabilities,” Mr. Arora said in an interview. Fifth-generation wireless technology, which Telus and its rivals started deploying last year, provides faster service with low lag time – referred to in the industry as latency – allowing for the level of responsiveness needed for applications such as self-driving cars and remote surgeries. However, experts say it is still early days in the roll-out of 5G and that it could take years before the technology’s full potential is fulfilled.

“As GM pushes into more and more autonomous capabilities this will be enabled by our 5G network,” Mr. Arora said. The partnership also opens the door to future agreements, including in other sectors, he added.

Customers pay General Motors for connected services through monthly fees, which range from $15 to $50.

“As we move to 5G, GM will introduce a range of new convenience and entertainment features as well as new driver-assistance technologies on our journey to zero crashes and zero congestion,” Scott Bell, president and managing director of GM Canada, said in a statement.

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“Working with Telus, we can develop and foster much of that innovation right here in Canada,” he added.

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