Dell to offer GSM/GPRS card for notebooks

Dell Computer Corp. will offer its notebook customers the choice of WLAN (wireless LAN) or WWAN (wireless wide area network) technology under an agreement signed Tuesday with AT&T Wireless Services Inc. to let Dell customers connect to cellular data networks through an expansion card.

Notebook customers will be able to purchase a tri-band Sierra AirCard 750 Wireless cellular modem from Sierra Wireless Inc. alongside a Dell notebook for US$299.99, and participate in several different AT&T Wireless plans. Customers that sign up for higher-cost rate plans before Sept. 30 will receive rebates on the Sierra AirCard, reducing its price to $224.99 if a customer chooses AT&T's unlimited access plan for $99.99 a month, said Steven Macon, Dell wireless product marketing manager.

Dell provides a number of notebooks that can connect to WLANs on various 802.11 standards. But the deal with AT&T Wireless is the company's first with a WWAN provider in the U.S., Macon said. AT&T Wireless has a GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Services) network.

European notebook users have been able to purchase a Dell TrueMobile 5000 GSM/GPRS card for the last 10 months, in agreements with Vodafone Group PLC and mm02 PLC, Macon said.

The two wireless technologies are seen as complementary, rather than competitive technologies by the cellular carriers and the Wi-Fi Alliance. WLAN connections are faster and more stable when inside a room or building, but have a limited range, whereas a data connection on a cellular network can be maintained while driving down the road or while sitting outdoors.

For its Axim handhelds, Dell has plans to offer a Compact Flash card based on another major cellular standard, CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), Macon said. The Round Rock, Texas, company is also investigating the prospect of offering a CDMA card for its notebooks, he said.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) already sells the Sierra AirCard 750 for notebooks through its Web site in partnership with T-Mobile USA Inc. HP offers the card for $359, with up to $60 in rebates depending on the customer's eligibility, according to HP's site.

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