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Gartner changes tune on embedded 3G

The analyst group says enterprise use of laptops with embedded 3G connectivity will be economically viable from the end of this year
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

Gartner has decided to recommend the use of laptops with embedded 3G connectivity, despite previously warning against enterprise use of such devices.

According to the analyst group, which announced its change of heart on Thursday, better roaming rates and chipsets will — by the end of this year — make it economically viable for "moderate to extensive travellers" to use embedded 3G rather than external modems.

"Our standing recommendation against embedding wireless WAN (WWAN) cards in notebooks — except for applications with a clear return-on-investment justification — has been based on lack of global coverage, high costs and poor asset protection," said Gartner vice president Ken Dulaney. "However, new technologies and pricing due by the end of 2008 have the potential to eliminate the problems of embedded, wireless 3G notebook purchases."

Gartner has two justifications for its recommendation, both on technical grounds. Firstly, new chipsets, like Qualcomm's Gobi, support multiple access technologies, making it unnecessary to swap out data cards when travelling between previously incompatible regions. Secondly, the analyst firm said, embedded technology has always benefited from better reception, because antennae can be built into the structure of the laptop itself.

New technology also affects the terms on which a customer gets a contract, claimed Gartner. "With the new chipsets supporting an array of wireless frequencies and technologies, movement among carriers is limited by the contract terms negotiated by the buyer," said research vice president Leslie Fiering. "This means that buyers no longer have to be locked into one carrier during the life of the notebook, which was the case in the past."

On the pricing side, Gartner pointed to a recent strategy among operators of "going beyond two-year contracts to include daily and monthly rates, as well as programmes for letting international travellers use local rates on pay-per-day plans".

"Essentially, these plans would work in a manner similar to visiting a Wi-Fi hotspot, where the user would see a web page pop-up, enter a credit card and be online," Gartner's statement read. "But, unlike Wi-Fi, the provider would be the same throughout any particular country."

Gartner's latest position mirrors that of the wireless connectivity aggregator iPass, which recently said it had also changed its mind on embedded 3G, now being in favour of the strategy.

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