Vodafone is preparing a laptop with a built-in 3G data card, an executive said earlier today. The PC will be released in the next 18 months, said the marketing head for Vodafone, Nick Jeffery.

"We're working aggressively with a number of OEMs around the world to make that a reality," said Jeffery. Across the ocean, Vodafone's US joint venture Verizon Wireless is expected to introduce a laptop with built-in wide-area networking today.

The Dell laptop will include a wireless data card operating on Verizon Wireless' high-speed EVDO (Evolution Data Optimized) network, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Historically, PC makers tend to build in technologies that are first introduced as external devices, Jeffery noted. "In the PC industry it's a natural evolution to include high-speed wide-area networking inside," he said.

Vodafone has sold 600,000 external PC cards that allow users to access the Internet from their laptops over a wireless connection. Of them, 400,000 operate on Vodafone's 3G networks, said Peter Bamford, the company's chief marketing officer.

In May, Sony began selling a Vaio laptop computer with a built-in radio card allowing for Internet access over Cingular Wireless EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) network in the US.