Option has launched what it calls the world's first tri-band HSDPA/3G UMTS wireless data card, adding to its range of products drawing on "3.5G" technology - High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA).

The GlobeTrotter GT Max, making its debut at the 3GSM World Congress this week in Barcelona, is touted as the first laptop card supporting all HSDPA/3G UMTS networks commercially available today. It supports tri-band HSDPA/3G UMTS on the 850, 1900 and 2100 MHz bands, and where these aren't available can fall back on quad-band GPRS/EDGE in the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands.

That potentially means high-speed access in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the Far East and Australasia, as long as there's a suitable base station around, Option said.

In reality, HSDPA is one of several competing wireless broadband technologies - among them WiMax - and its deployment is spotty so far. In Europe T-Mobile has plans for HSDPA in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Other operators are deploying or trialling the technology in the UK, Italy and Sweden. HSDPA is also making inroads into Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, South Africa and the Phillippines.

Option says its cards can hit rates of 1.8 Mbit/s on HSDPA networks, 384 kbit/s on standard 3G/UMTS, and 247 kbit/s on EDGE/GPRS.

GT Max includes software for automatically selecting the fastest connection available, and supports automatic authentication via PC Smart Card and EAP-SIM. Commercial shipments are to begin by the end of this quarter.

Wi-Fi combo card
Also on Monday Option introduced a data card combining HSDPA and Wi-Fi, the GlobeTrotter Fusion+HSDPA. T-Mobile Germany is currently using the card to support its HSDPA rollout.

When HSDPA/UMTS and Wi-Fi aren't available, the card can fall back on GPRS/EDGE. Option claims it's the first to combine the three technologies in a single data card.

Finally, the company rolled out two fixed wireless broadband products, the GlobeSurfer HSDPA wireless router for small offices and the GlobeSurfer Icon for providing a HSDPA connection to a single PC.

The router can create an HSDPA connection at 1.8Mbit/s and share this with multiple PCs, while the Icon device is designed to allow operators to offer broadband services to consumers, competing with cable, ADSL and similar services. Icon doesn't require any configuration by the user, according to Option.