Vodafone Group Plc has announced a slew of agreements with IT equipment suppliers designed to increase the business uptake of GPRS services, and claims to have inked deals with the suppliers of 60% of Western Europe’s notebooks.
The Newbury, UK-based wireless operator has signed alliances with Dell Computer Corp, Fujitsu Siemens Computers BV, Hewlett-Packard Co, IBM Corp, Psion Plc’s Teklogix, and Toshiba Corp’s computer systems division. The alliance enables the device manufacturers to supply business customers with a connection to Vodafone’s GPRS data network, bundled with notebooks, PDAs and Tablet PCs.
Under the scheme, which is called Connected by Vodafone, the device manufacturers will be able to bundle a GPRS data card, Vodafone SIM card and Vodafone airtime connection with the devices before shipping them to customers. Customers will then be able to negotiate existing or new subscription packages directly with Vodafone.
A Vodafone spokesperson said that its business customers had specified that they wanted to deal with existing hardware suppliers, adding that it will be up to the device manufacturers to decide how they market and promote the Connected by Vodafone devices.
IBM’s EMEA sector marketing manager, Lindsay Campbell said that the company would begin rolling out the devices in the UK, and that IBM was working with Vodafone to identify early adopters and other European countries to target. The company will offer Vodafone-enabled ThinkPad notebooks to large organizations with mobile workforces, she said, and will also offer customization and deployment services.
Other device vendors do not appear to be as advanced on deployment plans for the Vodafone-enabled devices. A Dell spokesperson said the company has yet to finalize its plans for delivery and that an announcement was expected later this week. Representatives from HP and Fujitsu Siemens had not returned calls regarding their specific roll-out plans by press time.
The alliances and Connected by Vodafone program builds on Vodafone’s launch of Vodafone Remote Access earlier this month. Remote Access is a service that provides business customers with a way to connect to their corporate networks to access email, calendar and other business related applications while on the move. It is expected that this service will be included in many Connected by Vodafone mobile connectivity packages.