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A band of 16 mobile players and device manufacturers has come out to jointly pledge their commitment to support cellular data connectivity in coming devices.
In a statement released Tuesday via the GSM Association (GSMA), the team made up of mobile operators, PC and chipset manufacturers said they will pre-install "always-connected" capability to new devices, providing a "compelling alternative to Wi-Fi".
The 16 launch participants are: Asus, Dell, ECS, Ericsson, Gemalto, Lenovo, Microsoft, Orange, Qualcomm, Telefónica Europe, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera, T-Mobile, Toshiba and Vodafone.
These companies will partake in the first wave of product releases that will involve mostly notebooks, said the GSMA, which introduced a service mark that manufacturers can place on such "ready to run" devices so they can be easily recognized by consumers.
The trade group said the "Mobile Broadband" service mark is "backed by a global media spend of more than US$1 billion in the next year", and underscores the industry's seriousness about cellular broadband.
The announcement comes in light of an industry debate over long-term evolution (LTE) and WiMax, which are seen as competing technologies. WiMax relies on wireless hotspots and is similar to Wi-Fi technolgy, while LTE transmits data over cellular networks. Touted as the successor to "super-3G" HSPA (high speed packet access) technologies, LTE is an all-IP 3G-based standard.
A GSMA spokesperson told ZDNet Asia this announcement refers primarily to HSPA technology, rather than LTE, but noted that the Mobile Broadband service mark "will be applicable to LTE in the future". He said in an e-mail that HSPA will continue to be the dominant global mobile broadband technology in the next five to 10 years.
According to the GSMA, Mobile Broadband-tagged devices will work in 91 countries, and "several hundred thousand notebooks" are expected in shops by year-end.
The second wave of releases will encompass other devices, ranging from cameras to refrigerators and cars, the trade group added, but did not state when this phase would begin. The GSMA represents the interests of 750 GSM mobile phone operators and over 200 manufacturers and suppliers worldwide.
Shiv K. Bakhshi, director of mobility research at IDC, said in the release: "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'."
One of the launch vendors, Asus, on Monday also announced HSPA capability for its upcoming ultraportable Eee PC notebook. The device will be released next month in some countries including Singapore, but not region-wide as yet, according to a Singapore-based spokesperson.
Asus' announcement comes one day after Sprint Nextel announced its U.S. commercial launch of WiMax, which is expected to potentially cover 140 million consumers by end-2010.