Industry analyst Gartner has had a change of heart over the potential of laptops with embedded 3G capability, and is now saying they will become justifiable bits of kit for many businesses.

The analyst maintains that to date, embedded 3G capabilities for laptops has been difficult for enterprises to justify because of upfront purchase costs, monthly costs and asset protection. But the firm concedes that with new pricing plans and technology evolution, the tide is turning.

“Our standing recommendation against embedding wireless WAN cards in notebooks – except for applications with a clear return-on-investment justification – has been based on lack of global coverage, high costs and poor asset protection,” said Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “However, new technologies and pricing due by the end of 2008 have the potential to eliminate the problems of embedded, wireless 3G notebook purchases.”

The analyst reckons organisations can consider embedded 3G in new notebook purchases for moderate to extensive travellers in 2009.

“Various influencing factors are transitioning to a point where embedded 3G will become superior from a cost perspective compared with previously used alternatives, such as wifi ‘hot spots’ and hotel broadband for wide-area use,” said Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner.

Historically, Gartner has advised against buying laptops with embedded 3G, but it now appears that many of the barriers are in the process of being removed.

Forthcoming chipsets that combine multiple technologies and frequencies can now provide nearly universal geographic coverage and asset protection by promising a three year useful life. At the same time, carriers are beginning to recognise the value of going beyond two year contracts to include daily and monthly rates, as well as programs for letting international travellers use local rates on pay-per-day plans.

Carrier lock in is also due to become a thing of the past. “With the new chipsets supporting an array of wireless frequencies and technologies, movement among carriers is limited by the contract terms negotiated by the buyer. This means that buyers no longer have to be locked into one carrier during the life of the notebook, which was the case in the past,” Fiering said.