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Laptops gain built-in mobile WAN links

Apr 10, 20062 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* Cellular links added to notebooks at CTIA show

Most enterprises with mobile workforces seek a balance between mobile coverage and bandwidth. If they had to pick one trait over the other, those with highly mobile workforces such as field service, sales and public safety personnel would likely pick improved coverage, because continual connectivity is of paramount importance to that user population.

To increase users’ chances of being connected wherever they happen to be, laptops have started to ship with embedded broadband mobile WAN connections. The built-in cellular modems join embedded Wi-Fi laptop connections, which are already widely available.

The built-in mobile WAN connections offer an improved capital price point to enterprises, in that users can get broader coverage without paying for separate modem cards for each network type. For example, enterprises wishing to add one flavor of cellular data coverage can avoid the capital expense of purchasing a PC Card modem for that connection. When you’re covering hundreds or thousands of mobile workers, the outlay for modem cards can add up.

Similarly, for those enterprises desiring multiple mobile network connections to optimize both coverage and bandwidth, there’s more room in the PC to accommodate the various necessary wireless modems. Having Verizon Wireless EV-DO embedded alongside integrated Wi-Fi, for example, frees up PC slots to make room for Sprint EV-DO, Cingular Wireless HSDPA, or another cellular service.

Here’s a snapshot of the industry activity surrounding built-in mobile WAN modems:

* Lenovo’s Z, T and X Series ThinkPads ship with both embedded Wi-Fi and Verizon Wireless 400K to 700Kbps EV-DO connections.

* The recently launched HP Compaq nc6140 Notebook PC also ships with Verizon Wireless EV-DO connections.

* Dell integrated Cingular Wireless UMTS/HSDPA and Verizon Wireless EV-DO mobile WAN connections into its Latitude notebooks in late March.

* At last week’s CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, Cingular and HP said they are collaborating to deliver global 3G capabilities built into HP notebooks later this year. The companies plan business laptops integrated with Cingular’s UMTS/HSDPA-based service for use in the U.S. and in about 100 countries worldwide in which there are such networks available.