Dell deal with Vodafone to test 3G mobile broadband

31 May 2006

The first commercial trials of 3G broadband have been revealed, with the technology initially due to be rolled out as part of a deal between Vodafone Ireland and Dell.

Groups of Dell employees at the computer maker’s EMEA Business campus at Cherrywood, Dublin will have access to the technology over the summer, ahead of an expected public launch later this year.

According to Vodafone Ireland, the trial of high-speed download packet access (HSDPA), as it is known, marks the first step in a wider rollout of 3G broadband technology, which promises access to email, the internet and other online services at up to four times the speed of current 3G technology.

Vodafone is in the process of building out its 3G network around the country and company officials said recently that most of the major urban centres in Ireland can now get 3G. Later this year the operator will upgrade its network to run HSDPA which is between three and four times faster than current 3G speeds — said to be close to 1.2Mbps.

The mobile technology now being supplied in many manufacturers’ laptops will be compatible with this new technology when it is launched. Last month Dell announced that its Latitude D series of laptops would include built-in 3G access as an optional extra and this component will work with HSDPA, the company said.

Even faster versions of HSDPA will be available over the next 18 months, with wireless access speeds said to be up to 12Mbps. “Within a year you’ll see a Wi-Fi-like experience,” said Chris Handley, head of business products at Vodafone Ireland at a briefing last month.

Handley added that the technology showed how notebook computers had evolved from having modem and Wi-Fi access as external PC cards to having these capabilities built into the machines. “We’re now at the point of embedding mobile radios in laptops in the same manner,” he said.

By Gordon Smith