Analyst reviews opinion of use of embedded 3G in notebooks

New pricing plans and wireless WAN (WWAN) technology evolution are forcing changes in strategy

Even though only recently it had believed that embedded wireless broadband (3G) capability for laptops was difficult for enterprises to justify because of upfront purchase costs, monthly costs and asset protection, market analyst Gartner is now positive about the prospects for such technology.

At the heart of the change of opinion are new pricing plans and wireless WAN (WWAN) technology evolution which Gartner believes will force changes in strategy.

Historically, says Gartner, embedded WWANs had been tied to specific technologies and service providers, meaning that users could not just swap cards out when they moved to an area not covered by a certain carrier. Ongoing service costs were difficult to justify, and roaming charges could drive costs even higher. Additionally, Gartner regarded the high churn in WWAN technologies and frequencies as possible caused of making WWAN cards obsolete within two years inside a notebook with a three-year expected life.

Now however, Gartner says that new technologies and pricing structures are set to change this. It recognises chipsets that combine multiple technologies and frequencies can provide nearly universal geographic coverage and asset protection by promising a three-year useful life. At the same time, it believes that carriers are beginning to recognise the value of going beyond two-year contracts to include daily and monthly rates, as well as programs for letting international travellers use local rates on pay-per-day plans.

Such changes will likely not only  provide better economic justification and asset protection for embedding wireless 3G technologies in notebooks by the end of 2008, but also may help justify wider deployments of the cards in the interim.

"Our standing recommendation against embedding 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," conceded Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "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 advises organisations to consider purchasing embedded 3G in new notebook for moderate to extensive travellers in 2009. It sees various influencing factors transitioning to a point where embedded 3G will become superior from a cost perspective compared with previously used alternatives, such as Wi-Fi ‘hot spots’ and hotel broadband for wide-area use. In addition carrier lock-I will likely also be removed.

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