Intel has joined forces with the GSM Association (GSMA) to promote the integration of SIM cards and 3G data technology into laptops.

The deal, announced at the 3GSM trade conference in Barcelona, brings in an important backer for the GSMA's vision of ubiquitous, high-speed data communications based on 3GSM technology. The aim is for laptops to come ready-equipped with modems supporting 3G with its data-orientated HSDPA and HSUPA upgrades, and readers for SIM cards, to be used for authentication to 3G, GPRS/EDGE and Wi-Fi networks.

This plan may appear to compete with Intel's adamant support for achieving the same thing through the WiMax wireless broadband standard, but Intel has said it sees 3G and WiMax as complementary. Currently fixed WiMax equipment is just beginning to become available, and the mobile WiMax standard is said to be another two years away.

In the meantime, a number of operators across Europe, North America, Japan and elsewhere are already trialling or rolling out HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access). HSDPA is intended to allow operators to offer broadband download speeds over 3G networks at a minimal upgrade cost. HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access) is being demonstrated at

Intel has said the spread of HSDPA needn't rule out the need for mobile WiMax, and there have been suggestions that the two standards could be aligned, with HSDPA/HSUPA providing a stepping-stone for mobile WiMax.

That is the idea Intel and the GSMA said they are promoting with Tuesday's announcement. "Our goal is to ensure that in future, every notebook will be SIM ready," said GSMA chief executive Rob Conway in a statement. "As 3G network rollouts accelerate across the world, with additional media rich capabilities added through HSDPA upgrades, laptops with in-built connectivity to the 3GSM world will enable PC users to enjoy the full benefits of seamless access to mobile broadband wireless services with secure authentication."

The two organisations said they will work on guidelines for integrating 3G modems and SIM cards into laptops, targeting mobile operators, PC manufacturers and network infrastructure providers.

"This will turn the notebook into a real multi-communications terminal, and the SIM into a real authentication vehicle for GSM, GPRS, EDGE, 3GSM, HSDPA and Wi-Fi networks," stated Sean Maloney, the executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobility Group.

The GSMA said it can count on support from North American GSM operators such as Cingular Wireless as well as European providers such as Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile. Intel said some of its OEM customers are planning 3GSM-capable laptops for this year.