BMW since the inception of BMW Assist it has used CDMA technology on the Verizon network. BMW has never publicly admitted the specifics but this is a fair assumption due to the network size and the previous technology restraints.
This fact alone explains why Europe and other locales have always had certain features before the US. CDMA is essentially a technology used in North America (we are not getting overly specific with this) and the US telematics units were country/carrier specific. If there is one thing that people know about Verizon is that they are years behind others in the release of new phones. This has been no different for the BMW modules. Think about it, you are in Munich designing a unit for a car and the network does not even exist there, so you must then travel stateside or find a stateside manufacturer or designer; not logistically a good thing.
The other advantage is the cost savings to BMW. They no longer have to try to maintain two separate types of systems and develop for both.
With the change to GSM this will open many avenues in development and cross compatibility. There are many manufacturers and providers designing and building new platforms for GSM in Europe. The devices can operate around the world and are easily updated. The unit will more than likely have a sim card (chip) that can be removed/updated/changed though it is more than likely sealed and locked away so users do not try funny things. GSM will also allow some newer technologies in the field of car communications and data transmission to work in the US. We will be discussing this further in the near future.
This also means that BMW has jumped ship from Verizon and joined up with AT&T, the largest GSM provider in the US. The other option would be that the car is setup for open access to all GSM carriers and uses each system as it requires with BMW operating as a virtual network provider, buying chunks of minutes from the network operators. We see AT&T as the likely option as they have agreements for roaming with most other carriers and this will be less of a hassle for BMW. BMW will not directly comment on their carrier choice but we have strong indications it is indeed AT&T.
The new unit will also feature text (SMS) messaging in order to communicate with the car and navigation unit. This is a feature that was lacking in prior units and part of the reason for the switch. XML code from Google maps will be sent to the BMWAssist network which will then be sent to the car in the form of a text (SMS) message and then interpreted by the navigation system.
One question is how safe is this from viruses and hackers, or just the average Joe plugging in random items via Google Maps. The system must have some security more complex than just the car data info and email address requirements.
Here is an excerpt from the BMWCCA website about the particulars of the system:
Thanks to a new GSM-based telematics system soon to be available across the entire range of BMWs (except X3 and Z4), BMW is launching the MyInfo feature in the States. Using Google Maps, this new offering allows BMW owners to send a destination, including street address and telephone number, to a satnav-equipped BMW from virtually any computer connected to the Internet. We checked with Fran Dance, Telematics Services Manager at BMW of North America, to find out how MyInfo actually works. According to Dance, once you click on send, the system uses XML from Google to BMW Assist. BMW Assist then uses SMS to send the information to the car. The SMS message has network persistence for four days, which means the car does not have to be on to receive the message Sorry: no upgrade path for existing BWWs According to Fran Dance, an upgrade for older vehicles is not available. The MyInfo feature requires the new telematics unit to function. Jonathan B. Spira, Technology Editor
To see this excellent article in its entirety check it out here