Big names flock to HSPA mobile broadband

HSPA touted as a 'compelling alternative to wi-fi' for notebooks

Sixteen big name mobile operators and PC makers have publicly backed the use of HSPA embedded in notebooks, after promising to deliver devices containing the mobile broadband technology.

A statement released via the GSM Association (GSMA) this month said backers of the so called "Mobile Broadband Alliance" will pre-install "always-connected" capability in new devices, providing a "compelling alternative to Wi-Fi".

The mobile operators backing HSPA in notebooks include Vodafone, Orange, Telefonica Europe, T-Mobile, 3Group, Telecom Italia and TeliaSonera. On the hardware side, Dell, Asus, Toshiba and Lenovo are backing the technology. Other backers include Microsoft, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Gemalto, and ECS.

These companies have pledged to pre-install mobile broadband into a range of notebook PCs that will be ready to switch on and surf, straight out of the box, in 91 countries. The GSMA has also created a Mobile Broadband logo, that will signify to consumers that their new notebook is ready to run mobile broadband. It expects the service mark will appear on "several hundred thousand notebooks in the shops by the holiday season".

The GSMA say that integrating mobile broadband into notebook PCs is the first step to wire up previous unconnected devices such as MP3 players, set top boxes, cameras, cars, and even refrigerators (hardly the most portable of devices). However, only devices that offer a "truly untethered mobile broadband experience" will qualify for the new logo.

"The Mobile Broadband initiative is a timely one in that it leverages the increasingly widespread availability of high-bandwidth networks in both developed and developing economies," says Shiv K Bakhshi, the director of mobility research at analyst house IDC.

"While there will always be a place for wi-fi connectivity, the great merit of mobile broadband might be that it liberates the user from the spatial tyranny of the so-called 'hotspot'."

The GSMA cites research from Wireless Intelligence, which says there are currently more than 55 million people subscribing to mobile broadband services in 91 countries — a figure that is expected to rise by another four million per month by the end of this year.

The fact that mobile operators are prepared to throw their weight behind HSPA is no surprise.

The Mobile Broadband Alliance reportedly has approximately US$1 billion (NZ$1.6 billion) to spend on advertising, but with the number of new laptops appearing with mobile broadband already installed, coupled with the large uptake of mobile broadband services, one has wonder whether this initiative will simply be pushing against an open door.

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