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Growth of Mobile Broadband to the Laptop

The spread of high speed mobile data services is driving the increasing adoption of wireless modems in laptop computers, according to a new study from ABI Research.

In the early days of mobile computing, only the most hardcore road-warriors in niche markets equipped their laptops with wireless connections, because transmission speeds were so painfully slow using the cellular network technologies of the time.

As speeds increase with the rollout of 3G services and air-interfaces evolve from EV-DO and W-CDMA to EV-DO Rev A and HSPDA, wireless connectivity becomes progressively more useful to a growing pool of laptop users.

The original wireless modems for laptops were add-ons in the shape of PC cards, and indeed according to Philip Solis, senior analyst at ABI Research, "there are still several good years left in the PC card market." Now, progressively more wireless modems are being built right into the computer, and it is there that the real long-term opportunity lies. That will produce a change in the dynamics of the market.

ABI Research estimates that shipments of embedded modems will equal those of PC cards by 2009. "With PC cards," says Solis, "vendors sell the cards and an associated mobile phone service. Changing service provider or upgrading to a better modem is a simple matter of purchasing a new and different card. Embedded modems, however, must be chosen at the time the laptop is purchased - before the service is activated."

The consequence is that mobile operators "incentivize" laptop vendors with a "bounty" for every unit sold. Therefore, Solis advises, "modem manufacturers should take care to cultivate strong relationships with carriers and operators. Among the leading laptop modem vendors � Option NV, Novatel Wireless, Sierra Wireless and SonyEricsson � Option has been most proactive in pursuing such relationships, and it has produced results: we found Option to be the number one cellular modem vendor at the end of 2005."

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