Say no to 3G laptops – analyst

Industry analyst Gartner has warned businesses and consumers to stay away from laptops with embedded 3G, at least until High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) is available.

Over the past year, mobile chip vendors have been jumping into bed with PC manufacturers everywhere. The GSM Association (GSMA) has been one of the leading forces behind an industry wide initiative to facilitate and drive the adoption of mobile broadband in notebooks.

The GSMA’s involvement started with a partnership with chip vendor Intel earlier this year and last month gave way to the publication of guidelines prescribing a common approach for PC manufacturers to integrate HSDPA 3G into their product ranges.

But Nick Jones, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner said that consumers and enterprises looking for a new laptop or notebook should say no to those with 3G built in, at least until you can get HSUPA.

“Is it a good idea to buy a laptop with embedded 3G? Not unless you’re planning to throw it away or shell out for an upgrade in a year or so,” Jones said.

The analyst argues 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.

A number of operators are also looking at deploying HSUPA, the next generation of 3G, in the coming years, with some starting as early as 2007. “HSUPA is attractive because it will be the first time that GSM networks can provide a service approximately equivalent to fixed broadband in both directions. But the HSDPA network hardware built into the laptop you buy today won’t be able to exploit it,” said Jones. “So you either have to buy a new laptop or upgrade it somehow.”

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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