The first laptops in Europe embedded with chipsets to connect to cellular networks look set to appear at CeBIT in March, with T-Mobile International AG and Vodafone Germany the operators lining up partners for launches at the show.
Developments had been pretty much under wraps at both companies until German business magazine Capital revealed their plans in its first edition last week. T-Mobile went so far as to reveal it was working with Fujitsu Siemens Computers BV.
The German subsidiary of UK-based Vodafone Group Plc was more circumspect, reiterating what it told analysts in September, namely that it was talking to all leading laptop manufacturers.
As such, the two German operators will be the first to introduce products in Europe whereby a laptop user will be able to open the device and click straight onto the internet.
US operators Verizon (49% owned by Vodafone) and Cingular made announcements along similar lines in 2005, the difference with Verizon being that the chipset in question will be for EV-DO connectivity, since it runs a CDMA network.
Cingular is a GSM operator and has so far announced only EDGE, a radio access technology sometimes referred to as 2.75G because of its higher data rates than GPRS.
An interesting question in the European scenario is whether the operators will transfer their policy of subsidizing hardware from the mobile phone domain into laptops.
Retail prices of notebooks have already been falling even without subsidies, so the possibility of them being offered at even lower prices in order to push cellular connectivity, and thus drive mobile operators’ data revenue isn’t so far-fetched.
Bear in mind that Vodafone is already offering a 3G phone in Germany for 1.00 with a two-year contract.