Dell has signed the second deal in a week to incorporate wireless broadband into its laptops, this time with Cingular.
Dell already sells laptops with Cingular PC Cards that can connect to its EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) network. Now it also plans to embed a modem into a notebook that can connect to Cingular's HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) network.
Earlier this week, Dell announced plans to sell laptops with embedded connections to Verizon's EV-DO (Evolution-Data Only) network starting next year.
HSDPA is the step on from UMTS, the so-called 3G network compatible with current GSM/GPRS and EDGE networks. Cingular has already built UMTS networks in six US metropolitan areas, with plans to offer a mixture of UMTS and HSDPA connections in 15 to 20 markets by the end of the year, said a Cingular spokesman. By the end of 2006, Cingular hopes to have HSDPA coverage in most major US markets, he said.
Under real-world conditions, HSDPA offers between 400 and 700Kbit/s. Verizon's EV-DO network offers real-world download speeds roughly the same.
Dell's plans to embed cellular wireless technology into its notebooks speak to the desire of notebook users to connect to Internet from a wider variety of locations, a Dell spokeswoman said. A notebook user might connect to an HSDPA network in a park, a Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop or an Ethernet wired network in an office. Notebook users also can connect to cellular networks while on the move in cars or trains, she said.
As with most PC vendors, Dell is a big supporter of Intel's Centrino technology, which combines the Pentium M processor, a mobile chipset and a wireless chip for connecting to 802.11 Wi-Fi networks. The most commonly used 802.11b standard provides download speeds of around 2 to 4Mbit/s. Networks based on 802.11a and 802.11g are faster, but all the of 802.11 networks have a limited range when compared with cellular networks like HSDPA.
Integrating the cellular chips directly into the notebook makes it easier for switch between different networks and allows for longer battery life.
Cingular has not yet decided what the pricing will be for connecting to its HSDPA network. The carrier currently offers Dell customers with EDGE modem PC Cards unlimited downloads for $59.99 a month.
Dell's main rival in the PC market, HP, also announced a deal with Verizon this week to embed chips for EV-DO networks starting next year.