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Industry group to spend $1bn on mobile broadband laptop project

01 октября 2008

Mobile broadband got a boost Tuesday with the announcement that a group of mobile operators and vendors plan to embed HSPA into laptops, in a move they claim will enable the technology to take on WiFi effectively.

"We expect to see several hundred thousand [embedded laptops] in the shops by the holiday [season]," Michael O'Hara, CMO of the GSM Association, which is spearheading the campaign, told Total Telecom ahead of the announcement.

The 17 partners in the project, including mobile operators Vodafone, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and 3, chipset companies, and laptop makers Dell and Toshiba, have committed to a media spend of $1 billion over the next year to promote the new laptops, which will be available in 91 countries.

"The partners are keen to get going," said O'Hara, noting that the laptops will start to hit the shelves "over the next month."

The companies involved have created a Mobile Broadband service mark, a visual of two birds in flight, that will be used on laptops with in-built HSPA.

"[It's about] freedom from hotspots, freedom from wired connections," said O'Hara.

"We think this mobile broadband… is a compelling alternative," said O'Hara.
"The speeds we're seeing are certainly good," he added. "It's comparable to fixed broadband."

O'Hara also sees significant revenue potential for operators involved in the initiative.

At present ARPUs stand at around $4-$6 per month for this connection, but this will rise to $24 by 2011, he said, citing statistics from Infonetics.

And the GSMA expects the price of HSPA-embedded modems to come down a significant amount in the near future, something that will also drive the market.

"[Prices] will drop by 50% over the next 12 to 18 months," said O'Hara.

"Am embedded HSPA module today costs around $70… that's an add-on of something like $30," he said.

But O'Hara rejected concerns that people will be put off buying HSPA-embedded laptops for fear that technology will move faster than they would want to replace the computer.

Even with the move to LTE, "that HSPA connection will stay live," he said.
Besides, the average replacement cycle for laptops at present is only around three years, he added.

Analysys Mason principal analyst Matt Hatton described the announcement as "a smart move in terms of communicating the concept of mobile broadband to the public", but noted that there are still issues to be resolved.

"The challenge is that - unlike other technology labels such as Bluetooth or WiFi - the experience with mobile broadband will vary massively depending on coverage, local environmental issues, technology upgrade paths of the operators and device capabilities," Hatton said.

"All of this means that it may not be 100% clear what is meant by the Mobile Broadband mark."

The operators involved in the scheme were, naturally, upbeat on its potential though.

Orange we have witnessed a surge in appetite for mobile broadband," said Olaf Swantee, EVP for Orange Personal Communication, in a statement accompanying the announcement.
"Ensuring that mobile broadband delivers on its promise of simple, reliable and efficient Internet access on the move is an industrywide challenge that this initiative tackles head-on," he said.

"The Mobile Broadband service mark helps customers choose devices that are able to connect to services wherever they have cellular coverage," added Claes Nycander, vice president of common development, TeliaSonera Mobility Services.

"This initiative will definitely support the continued rapid growth of the mobile broadband market."

Источник: Total Telecom

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