Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is the world the new WiFi hotspot?

Vodafone Group, Microsoft and Ericsson AB are among 17 companies working together to promote laptop computers with built-in tools for making broadband connections to mobile-phone networks.

The initiative is led by the GSM Association, which will spend $1 billion next year to promote such devices, the London- based organization said in a statement.

“It's freedom from your desk, freedom from WiFi hotspots, the ability to get online anywhere where you have cellular coverage,” marketing head Michael O'Hara said in an interview. There should be “several hundreds of thousands” of such products in stores around Christmas, he said.

Wireless broadband using high speed packet access, or HSPA, technology offers data transfer speeds of more than 1 megabyte per second, in line with typical fixed-line Internet services.

There were 191 phone operators offering HSPA networks for more than 740 devices, including handsets and notebooks, the GSMA said in an August statement. The market for laptops is worth about $50 billion this year, the GSMA said in a statement, citing data from Pyramid Research.

There are more than 55 million wireless broadband subscribers in 91 countries, the GSMA said, citing data from Wireless Intelligence. The figure is estimated to rise by four million each month until the end of this year.

3 Group, Asus, Dell, ECS, Gemalto NV, Lenovo Group, LG Electronics, France Telecom SA's Orange, Qualcomm, Telefonica SA, Telecom Italia SpA, TeliaSonera AB, Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile and Toshiba are the other companies taking part in the initiative.

O'Hara predicted the number of companies joining the group will rise as there are about 750 operators globally offering wireless services using the GSM standard.

Who will be the next to join Vodafone , Microsoft and the like in the quest to building and promoting laptops that can connect to the internet almost anytime and anywhere?