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3G embedded laptops to gain edge over wifi

The market for embedded 3G modems in notebook PCs and cellular PC data cards is set to post “spectacular” 60 per cent growth in 2007, according to analyst Strategy Analytics.

The researcher group argues that wifi’s limitations are coming clearly into focus, and with truly cost effective mobile WiMAX still several years out, global 3G and 3.5G shipments are set to grow handsomely over the next few years, with annual shipments hitting 15 million units by 2009.

In its latest report, “Liberating the Laptop: 5-Year Market Outlook on PC Cards & Embedded Wireless WAN Connectivity,” Strategy Analytics concludes that 2007 will be the high water mark for 3G/3.5G pre-OFDM growth as notebook vendors begin to ramp up WiMAX in 2008 and 2009 with the help of WiMAX-ready Intel chipsets and baked-in WiMAX support in upcoming Vista Service Packs from Microsoft.

Yet, even with the future of WiMAX seen through rose tinted spectacles, the analysts believe that 3G’s long term role as part of a multi-radio, least-cost-routing future is secure as the default platform to service remote areas outside of cheaper WiMAX or WLAN coverage.

“In the early 3G card market, tech-savvy business users with sufficient need and ability to pay are finding complete freedom from location and the gratification of instant-connections to be addictive,” said Cliff Raskind, director of the Wireless Enterprise Strategies service at Strategy Analytics.

“Fast forward a decade and users will come to expect options for boundless connectivity. The notion of having to ‘go somewhere’ to connect will be as inconvenient as it is for a voice call today. By necessity, to move the market forward, WLAN, 3G and 4G will be unknown to the user and these technologies will work in concert to provide transparent connectivity”.

To some degree, Strategy Analytics’ research flies in the face of advice from analyst Gartner.

In November, Gartner issued an advisory warning businesses and consumers to stay away from laptops with embedded 3G, at least until High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) is available.

The analyst argued that HSDPA is not yet fast enough to replace a broadband connection and as faster chips hit the market, newer machines may offer better downlink speeds on the same network.

The other problem is that a number of laptops and notebooks with embedded 3G are being supplied on a subsidised basis by an operator. So potential buyers seeking the best price might end up getting locked into a fixed term mobile contract.


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