Mobile computing manufacturers need to add Wan

Embedding wan into ultra portables may addresses the frustration of spotty coverage of Wi-Fi

Ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) manufacturers need to add support for wide-area wireless networks in order for the devices to fulfil the full market potential that such mobile computing devices can offer, a new report from In-Stat has revealed.

One of the key recent trends in the mobile computing market has been the growing popularity of ultra portable devices such as netbooks which are increasingly being ‘given away’ by mobile broadband suppliers.

The In-Stat report, ‘UMD Connectivity: Add 3G Cellular, WiMAX, suggests that embedding a wide-area wireless modem into devices addresses the frustration many users have with the spotty coverage of Wi-Fi,  However, warns In-Stat, supporting the multiple cellular protocols is difficult and costly.

"The challenge is which of the broadband options: WiMAX, EV-DO, HSPA, or LTE, will be most successful in a UMPC," commented Frank Dickson, Vice President, Mobile Internet group. "Each has pros and cons. There is no 'best' wide-area wireless technology."

In-Stat predicts that UMPCs will increasingly add support for wide-area wireless to supplement Wi-Fi. It says that the connect rate for wide-area wireless will grow from 20% today to almost 50% by 2012.

Yet as an indication of the challenges ahead for suppliers, , the survey found that 44% of notebook PC users express frustration with coverage when using Wi-Fi, compared with just 15% using a cellular broadband service.

This has led to suppliers of the latter mobile computing solutions experimenting with business models and subsidies. Examples cited by In-Stat include AT&T Mobility and RadioShack initiated a consumer mobile computing offer for a subsidised Acer Aspire UMPC coupled with a mobile broadband service plan.

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