Embedded 3G in laptops ‘will be standard’

3 Jun 2008

Improvements in global 3G coverage, cost and asset protection have resulted in analyst firm Gartner revising its stance on embedded 3G capability in laptops.

The company said technology evolution and new pricing models will spur more manufacturers to include embedded 3G capability as standard in laptops.

“Our standing recommendation against embedding wireless WAN (WWAN) cards in notebooks — except for applications with a clear return-on-investment justification — has been based on lack of global coverage, high costs and poor asset protection,” said Ken Dulaney, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“However, new technologies and pricing due by the end of 2008 have the potential to eliminate the problems of embedded, wireless 3G notebook purchases.”

Gartner said organisations can consider embedded 3G in new notebook purchases for moderate to extensive travellers in 2009.

“Various influencing factors are transitioning to a point where embedded 3G will become superior from a cost perspective compared with previously used alternatives, such as Wi-Fi ‘hot spots’ and hotel broadband for wide-area use,” commented Leslie Fiering, research vice-president at Gartner.

Historically, embedded WWANs have been tied to specific technologies and service providers, meaning that users could not just swap cards out when they moved to an area not covered by a certain carrier. Ongoing service costs were difficult to justify and roaming charges could drive costs even higher. Additionally, the tremendous churn in WWAN technologies and frequencies could make a WWAN card obsolete within two years inside a notebook with a three-year expected life.

The landscape is set to be shaken up with new technologies and pricing structures coming on stream, said Gartner. Chips containing multiple technologies and frequencies are set to provide almost universal geographic coverage and asset protection by promising a three-year useful life. Carriers are also beginning to consider daily and monthly rates for 3G broadband use.

By Niall Byrne