Lenovo to make ThinkPads with access to Cingular 3G

Following a flurry of similar announcements late last year, Lenovo Group Ltd. said on Wednesday that it will build a ThinkPad notebook computer with embedded chips that let users connect to the Internet over Cingular Wireless LLC's 3G (third-generation) wireless network.

The ThinkPad is expected to hit shelves in the second quarter this year. Users will be able to access Cingular's HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) network, which is available in 52 U.S. cities, as well as Cingular's slower EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) service, available in 13,000 towns and cities. Users will also be able to roam internationally to 90 countries.

In October, Lenovo started selling ThinkPads that include chips for accessing Verizon Wireless Inc.'s EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) network. Around the same time, Dell Inc. announced plans to make laptops compatible with data networks operated by Cingular and Verizon. Hewlett-Packard Co. also announced a similar deal with Verizon.

HSDPA and EV-DO networks offer throughput rates of up to 700K bps (bits per second). EDGE offers as much as 135K bps.

The integrated wireless access capability will help IT departments to standardize on hardware and reduce the risk of damage to hardware such as external PC cards, Lenovo said.

The trend hasn't caught on among European operators. An exception is Vodafone Group PLC, which said in September that it was working with laptop makers to embed chips compatible with its network into laptops. Vodafone expects the laptops to ship this year or early next.

While access to the cellular data networks is more expensive and usually slower than Wi-Fi, the trend of integrating cellular chips into laptops could convince some mobile workers to switch to cellular, according to a report from ARCchart Ltd., a research and consulting firm. Even though Wi-Fi offers higher speed access and is built into the vast majority of laptops, the ubiquity of cellular, the ease of authentication and roaming on cellular networks and now laptops equipped with embedded cellular capabilities could make cellular more attractive than Wi-Fi for some, the report found.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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