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January 16, 2006

Dell plans cellular network laptops

Dell Inc is gearing up to make a slew of announcements surrounding new laptops and notebooks that feature chipsets enabling them to connect directly to cellular rather than Wi-Fi networks.

By CBR Staff Writer

Josh Claman, vice president and general manager of Dell’s UK operation, said users could expect to see some exciting broadband technology built into notebooks over the course of the next 12 to 18 months. He dropped strong hints that the exciting broadband technology will mean the addition of chipsets, possibly High Speed Downlink Packet Access chips that enable notebooks to connect directly to cellular networks instead of Wi-Fi networks. The main advantage of such embedded cellular chipsets is said to be the ability to connect to network services regardless of whether the user is within range of a Wi-Fi network.

Pressed as to just when users could expect to see support for cellular chipsets, Claman would only say: Wait for Barcelona, you will hear a lot more about things in this area then. This suggests that the company will announce the developments at 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain which will run from from February 13 to 16.

It is not clear whether Dell will be ready to ship products with cellular chipsets at that time, or whether it will simply be announcing its roadmap.

As ComputerWire noted last week, reports in German business magazine Capital suggest that the first laptops with embedded cellular chipsets in Europe look set to appear at CeBIT in March, with T-Mobile International and Vodafone Germany the operators lining up partners for launches at the show. T-Mobile went so far as to reveal it was working with Fujitsu Siemens Computers, while Vodafone said it was talking to all the leading laptop vendors.

In the US, operators Verizon (49% owned by Vodafone) and Cingular made announcements along similar lines in 2005, the difference with Verizon being that the chipset in question will be for EV-DO connectivity, since it runs a CDMA network. Cingular is a GSM operator and has so far announced only EDGE, a radio access technology sometimes referred to as 2.75G because of its higher data rates than GPRS.

As for the manufacturers of the cellular chipsets themselves, key contenders include Qualcomm, Freescale, Analog Devices, STMicroelectronics, Icera, and Samsung Electronics.

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