New laptop breed allows full browsing mobility

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am

Laptop computer users will soon be able to enjoy full internet browsing mobility while commuting, as more laptops become compatible with the 3.5G mobile network, according to an industry association.

The GSM Association, an international organisation of mobile operators and equipment vendors, is partnering with Microsoft to promote 3.5G mobile broadband laptop computing next year by hosting a laptop computer design competition.

'Mobile broadband internet access demand is growing as more laptop owners prefer to surf the internet in various places rather than stay fixed in one place,' said Doug Chambers, the association's senior director of terminals and market expansion.

Despite most laptops being equipped with internet accessibility through wireless fidelity (Wi-fi) technology, which allows connection to broadband internet at a fixed point, the association said Wi-fi does not meet consumer demand.

'Our study said only 20 per cent of laptop users connect to the internet at fixed points, and the remaining 80 per cent connect at multiple locations,' said David O'Byrne, the association's senior project director.

A survey conducted by Pyramid Research said existing Wi-fi-compatible laptops did not address demand for internet access at multiple locations.

'Mobile broadband is wide-area connectivity while Wi-fi is only at limited points,' said Ken Figueredo, managing director of Pyramid Research. '[Wi-fi] cannot meet the lifestyle of laptop users, as laptops are more personalised devices.'

Mr Chambers said laptops with mobile-network compatibility had been taken up only by corporate users so far.

Seeing the huge growth potential, the association and Microsoft are taking such products to consumers.

'According to a survey the association conducted, the potential market for these mobile broadband laptops is worth more than US$50 billion with shipment of over 70 million units estimated for next year,' Mr Chambers said. 'These laptops will be for the mass market.'

'Mobile operators can also provide their own-branded mobile broadband laptops in the future through an original design manufacturing deal with computer makers,' Mr O'Byrne said. 'Our study suggested that subscribers are willing to purchase laptops from mobile operators with a contract commitment for the mobile broadband service.'

'It's all about economies of scale, as there are more than 2.5 billion mobile phone users using GSM-based technology, it would be much easier to drive the cost down for the mobile broadband-related chipsets or modules,' Mr Chambers said.

The association expects laptops with mobile broadband connectivity will be on the shelves next year.

SmarTone-Vodafone last week launched a 3.5G mobile broadband modem for laptop users for internet access of up to 7.2 megabits per second.