Dell plans notebook for Cingular's HSDPA network

By Tom Krazit, IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

A few days after Dell Inc. made plans with Verizon Communications Inc. to embed wireless broadband connections into its notebooks, Dell plans to do the same thing with Cingular Wireless LLC, Dell and Cingular announced Wednesday.

Dell and Cingular currently offer notebooks with Cingular PC Cards that can connect to the carrier's EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) network. Now it also plans to embed a modem into a notebook that can connect to Cingular's HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) network, said Anne Camden, a Dell spokeswoman. Earlier this week, Dell announced plans to sell laptops with embedded connections to Verizon Communications Inc.'s EV-DO (Evolution-Data Only) network starting next year.

HSDPA is the follow-on to UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), the so-called 3G network compatible with current GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Telecommunications/General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE networks. Cingular has already built UMTS networks in six U.S. metropolitan areas, with plans to offer a mixture of UMTS and HSDPA connections in 15 to 20 markets by the end of the year, said John Kampfe, a Cingular spokesman. By the end of 2006, Cingular hopes to have HSDPA coverage in most major U.S. markets, he said.

Under real-world conditions, HSDPA offers download speeds between 400K bps (bits per second) and 700K bps, Kampfe said. It's a software-based enhancement to UMTS networks, which offer download speeds between 300K bps and 500K bps, he said. Verizon's EV-DO network, which is based on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology, offers real-world download speeds of around 400K bps to 700K bps.

Dell's plans to embed cellular wireless technology into its notebooks speak to the desire of notebook users to connect to Internet from a wider variety of locations, Dell's Camden said. A notebook user might connect to an HSDPA network in a park, a Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop or an Ethernet wired network in an office. Notebook users also can connect to cellular networks while on the move in cars or trains, she said.

As with most PC vendors, Dell is a big supporter of Intel Corp.'s Centrino notebook technology, which combines the Pentium M processor, a mobile chipset and a wireless chip for connecting to 802.11 Wi-Fi networks. The most commonly used 802.11b standard provides download speeds of around 2M bps to 4M bps. Networks based on 802.11a and 802.11g are faster, but all the of 802.11 networks have a limited range when compared with cellular networks like HSDPA.

Integrating the cellular chips directly into the notebook makes it easier for users to take advantage of different networks depending on their location, Camden said. Wi-Fi users have also experienced longer battery life with integrated Wi-Fi chips as opposed to Wi-Fi PC Cards.

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