The advent of HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) mobile networks will deliver speeds of up to 3.6MB, taking broadband out on to the road, revolutionising the concept of the mobile working.
Vodafone has been first to market: its 3G broadband service went live with 59pc population coverage on 14 November, with Mobile Connect cards selling at €99. No date has been fixed for the first handsets. Initially the focus is on availability in Dublin and other urban locations but it will rapidly expand to cover the remaining 3G footprint over the next 12-24 months.
The operator has signed a deal with Dell, HP and Lenova, allowing them to sell laptops with the 3G cards embedded in the hardware. To date, Dell has two products with the SIM embedded, the Latitude D420 and D520 notebooks. “Awareness might have been slow when the products first announced but we now have a number of customers that have decided every notebook they buy will be HSDPA embedded,” said Greg Tierney, Dell’s client systems marketing manager.
The Lenovo models are the ThinkPad X60 and T60. HP has one integrated HSDPA notebook in its range, the Compac nc6400, but it won’t be available in Ireland until around March next year.
“We announced the partnership with Vodafone and are rolling out the products across Europe in stages,” says Kevin Nolan, category manager, personal systems group, HP. “Vodafone’s networks are not standardised so the only way is to do a phased rollout. We have now done the qualification work for the Irish network and hope to have it ready for late in quarter one.”
He is not concerned about losing ground to Dell because the first three of four months of the year are the important time for corporate buyers. He also suggests that after the first arrives other integrated HSDPA models would follow quickly. “Most of the hard work is in the certification of the technology. Once that bit is done it can be implemented in most HP notebook platforms.”
HP is also talking to O2 locally. “Having seen Dell go out there quite aggressively with Vodafone it means we have to go out and listen to what O2 has to say. We’re working quite closely with them at the iPaq level already.”
HP will also launch a HSDPA smart phone in the first half of next year, according to Nolan. The company has already launched a HSDPA iPaq in the States and has big plans in this area. “There will some revolutionary new products hitting Ireland in the first half of next year that will see us moving away from the traditional iPaq form factor.”
He has no doubt of the significance of HSDPA: “It will be the real driver of the corporate notebook market and we’re forecasting that by the second half of the year we’ll be shipping more notebooks than desktops.”
HSDPA will also impact on Wi-Fi, according to Nolan. “We can forget about driving around looking for hotspots, it’s now about connectivity anywhere. Hotspots will have to change their business model, offer lower prices or even a free service.”
Dell’s Greg Tierney thinks Wi-Fi will still have a place. “There are speed iterations coming down that will make it a faster technology. That said, HSDPA is not any more complex and the pricing that has been put in place makes it very interesting.”
He believes HSDPA will be excellent for Ireland in general. IDC figures have traditionally put Ireland behind the rest of Europe in the move from desktop to mobile notebooks. Tierney believes the slow rollout of broadband may have been a contributing factor. “If you don’t have a good broadband experience from home you’re not going to work from home. One of the drivers behind mobility, from a company perspective, is knowing that you will get extra productivity out of employees when people can go home and work.”
Nolan agrees that Ireland had been slower to take off than other European countries in the adoption of notebooks, but thinks it is catching up. “It was slower until about six months ago but now we’re starting to catch up a bit. In the third quarter of this year desktop sales declined by 2pc whereas notebook sales grew by 22pc.”
By Ian Campbell
Pictured – Greg Tierney, client systems marketing manager, Dell, with Chris Handley, head of business products, Vodafone