The GSM Association (GSMA) has launched a scheme to promote cellular networks instead of Wi-Fi for mobile internet access, making it easier for customers to buy devices already enabled with a wireless service.
Backed by mobile operators and laptop vendors plus Microsoft, the Mobile Broadband initiative aims to do for 3G broadband what Intel's Centrino has already done for Wi-Fi, creating both a recognisable brand for buyers and a common reference standard for vendors.
The first phase of the initiative will see Mobile Broadband pre-installed in laptops so they are ready to switch on and surf straight out of the box, in 91 countries across the world. Each will carry the Mobile Broadband logo.
"The Mobile Broadband badge will assure customers that the devices they buy will always connect wherever Mobile Broadband is available, and that they can expect a high standard of simplicity and mobility," said Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer of the GSMA. The GSMA is a trade association representing GSM network operators around the globe.
O’Hara added that with speeds up to 7.2Mbit/s now available, 3G services are a compelling technology that enables users to get high-speed access to the internet from almost anywhere not just when they are close to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Lenovo, Dell, Asus and Toshiba have announced their support for the scheme and said they will have certified laptop models available. Customers purchasing such a model will have the reassurance that it will work with any mobile operator SIM that also carries the Mobile Broadband logo. The first models are set to be available by the end of the year.
Meanwhile Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and Three are among the operators providing wireless services, and customers are likely to see laptops subsidised by a mobile data plan in the same way that phones now are, according to O’Hara.
However, integrating Mobile Broadband into laptops is just the first step in a wider strategy to put wireless Internet access and management into a broader range of devices.
O’Hara said that as the cost comes down, devices such as music players and digital cameras will also have embedded Mobile Broadband. This would enable operators to offer consumer services such as online photo albums and music collections linked directly to such devices.
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