LTE Modem Transplant For A Tesla Imported Into Europe

An image describing parts of a Tesla modem board

When modern connected cars cross continents, novel compatibility problems crop up. [Oleg Kutkov], being an experienced engineer, didn’t fret when an USA-tailored LTE modem worked poorly on his Tesla fresh off its USA-Europe import journey, and walks us through his journey of replacing the modem with another Tesla modem module that’s compatible with European LTE bands.

[Oleg]’s post goes through different parts on the board and shows you how they’re needed in the bigger picture of the Tesla’s Media Computer Unit (MCU), even removing the LTE modem’s shield to describe the ICs underneath it, iFixit teardown diagram style! A notable highlight would be an SIM-on-chip, essentially, a SIM card in an oh-so-popular DFN package, and thankfully, replacing it with a socket for a regular SIM card on some extender wires has proven fruitful. The resulting Tesla can now enjoy Internet connectivity at speeds beyond those provided by EDGE. The write-up should be a great guide for others Tesla owners facing the same problem, but it also helps us make electric cars be less alike black boxes in our collective awareness.

Not all consequences of Tesla design decisions are this minor; for instance, this year, we’ve described a popular eMMC failure mode of Tesla cars and how Tesla failed to address it. Thankfully, Tesla cars are becoming more of a hacker community target, whether it’s building a computer-vision-assisted robot to plug in a charging cable, getting it repaired for a fraction of the dealership cost, or even assembling your own Tesla from salvage parts!

24 thoughts on “LTE Modem Transplant For A Tesla Imported Into Europe

  1. I would highly value an electric car that has equivalent functionality to a base model compact car made in the 1990’s. Extras should be aftermarket. I wonder what price Tesla could sell that type of car for?

    1. They wouldn’t.. The automotive safety parts cost way more than infotainment for the certification alone, and they are absolutely mandatory for the car to be sold anywhere. Sad facts of life.. I’d guess every mandatory feature drives the baseline cost up and causes the lower models to look even less appealing.

      1. Lack of features is by itself a benefit, but I get what you mean with regards to the price difference not being all that impressive. My two cents – I’d be happy to hear more insights about this! I tend to be skeptical of “safety is large part of why X is costly”, seen too many of such examples uncover that the cost in question (monetary/privacy/other) was blown up, to cover up for greed.

        1. Certification costs are expensive because you have to put the vehicle through each of the federally mandated crash tests, of which there are several (front, offset, side at a minimum; I don’t know if they do a rollover or rear impact test.) That’s assuming you pass all of them and don’t have to do them again.

          That sort of cost is nearly impossible to amortize below a certain number of production units at a price the market will accept. It’s one of the main reasons low production number sports cars are so expensive. Really what we need is for the major automotive market regulators to come together and agree on a common crash test standard. That’s unlikely to ever happen.

          This sort of thing would only be possible as a homebuilt/kit car, or off-road race car.

          1. If you’ve ever had a 10yo car with failing self-leveling rear suspension (every high-end 90s German car), rear-wheel steering (Acura Legends), electric windows (happened in a few friends’ BMWs), you learn that leaving features out truly can be a benefit.

            I don’t mean that as a indictment against any feature in specific, just explaining the concept.

          2. To put it bluntly, less shit that can go wrong, and in most cases, also less weight.
            Basically take a track-ready racecar, remove the expensive race things and add only JUST enough creature comforts so it’s acceptable as a daily driver ontop of the legally required.
            Like powersteeing, didn’t need that with a 90’s exonobox.
            Or electric windows, give all (or just the back) handcranks.
            And do you really NEED central locking?
            Full surround stereo will a oversized ipad? Why not just a cheap 2DIN radio with a screen just big enough to be compliant with the very recent “reversing cameras are mandatory” thing, on top with only two front speakers.

        2. That depends on the type of features you think of. In the meantime there are numerous features, I do not want to miss: Power windows, remote locking (keyfob, NOT internet), aircondition, automatic transmission, cruise control, GPS navigation, radio and MP3 player and many more.
          What I do not want is a permanent internet connection of the car so it can “phone home”.

          1. Sorry I prefer to drive a vehicle, not just point one. Hardcore manual everything nutcase here that has to repair all that fluff before the 30 year life expectancy of my vehicles ends. Hand cranked windows don’t fail, the key locks prevent remote access (have to bend something to break in), just need off on volume, station select and a one line frequency display on the radio with a submini phone jack input for odd listening. Maps don’t try to drown you in the river, and you don’t drive down dirt roads when the freeway freezes over.

    2. Some TV manufacturers earn more money by selling their customer’s data then by selling hardware to them. It’s becoming standard for all industries, get your hands on customer data and increase your profit by including “customer experience improvement” features, also known as spyware. That’s why we’ll se more and more telemetry masked as “experience improvement”, and not less.

  2. Technical note: a physical SIM card buried in an IC package is not e-SIM (also called eUICC). it’s a SIM-on-chip. eSIM is a different story and is delivered completely in the software layer and all it requires is a delivery of so called sim profile to rhe target device, using secure transport.

  3. It’s surprising, given you can have a software simcard, that mobile phones still use a physical card. Still, it’s pretty interesting that some people are virtualizing them.

    1. Hot take, but I prefer the physical cards.
      Mostly because knowing Murphy’s law and my luck, I’ll constantly have phone problems then, and having to deal with my carrier because I can’t just plop my card into another phone so people can still reach me conveniently is one of those things that’ll make me blow my gasket.

  4. I’m no Luddite, but do cars really need all the stuff they have today?
    Sure it’s convenient but so much can go wrong.
    I didn’t mind hand crank windows and manual door locks you needed a key
    to open. Even manual tuning of the radio with the little red plastic
    idicator worked fine. The more complicated things are, the more things
    that can go wrong. Electric door locks must still be able to be operated
    manually. Simple is better, less to go haywire.
    We had our car in for service and the rental car dinged, beeped, and
    made all sorts of noises we never did figure out. We were never so happy
    to get our simple car back. You have everyting vying for your attention
    these days. If you get into your car, you’re going to drive it.
    Kind of like my phone. The thing has a built in video editor app.
    To me, a phone is for making phone calls. I do not see the day where
    I will use a video editing app on my phone. Too much felgercarb.
    (Figure out that reference.) KISS works best. Keep it simple stupid.

    1. Original Battlestar Galactica, not the Frankenstein’s Monster remake. Ron Moore promised something “new” then went back to the oldest SciFi plot device there is. Man’s creation turning on its creator.

    2. Do the cars? No.. Does the company? Well that remains to be seen.

      Much of the software in Teslas isn’t necessarily about making the vehicle better at going A to B. Its about an attempt to make an entirely new eco-system. They are moving pieces into place for subscription models and software upgrades like software companies have where you don’t really ‘own’ anything, and in their ideal world you won’t want to either.

      Not something I have any desire for btw..

  5. The most expensive car you make is the cheapest one you make because it has all of the required features to be minimally viable for your brand (Not minimally viable for a vehicle) Beyond that everything else is paid for by the customer so the profit is much larger. Top end versions are loved by automakers and it’s often why they have special divisions to produce them.

  6. I have been near to getting one at times but have shied away. I’m no fan of Tesla’s constant connection to the mothership. This kind of mod is interesting. It brings with it the possibility of doing just such a switch here in the states.. then the cell radio will still work, but no connection made, cutting the useless communications.

    Also.. if one can find the spare parts (and they aren’t signed somehow to be unque to a particular vehicle) one could switch it out again if there ever was a desired feature update set.

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