By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-03-29 Print this article Print

Adding the WWAN hardware to one of the new D620 or D802 models will cost $179 and $225, respectively, for Verizons EvDO and Cingulars BroadbandConnect networks, Dell officials said. The modules and their respective software can be preinstalled at the factory or added at a later date, they said. WWAN access fees vary, representatives from the two companies said.
Cingular offers a $59.99 per month unlimited access plan for customers who already have a voice contract. It requires a two-year commitment. For those who dont already have an account, it offers all-you-can-eat access for $79.99.
Verizon offers similar plans for subscribers and nonsubscribers, which also cost $59.99 and $79.99. It also offers a day-by-day option that costs $15 per 24 hours, a company representative said. Dells move to incorporate wide-area wireless comes as adoption of machines with the technology is poised to skyrocket from a few hundred thousand units—a comparative zero—last year to millions by the end of the decade, according to analysts. But challenges remain. Monthly network service fees for data remain relatively high, the analysts say, and competition among vendors is stiff—all three of the top notebook makers now offer at least one model with built-in WWAN. Hewlett-Packard, which pledged around the same time last year as Dell did to begin offering wide-area wireless, launched its first such machine, the EvDO-capable HP Compaq 6320, on March 6. Lenovo customers can add EvDO to certain ThinkPad Z60, T60 and X60 models. The efforts by Dell and others come as companies such as chip maker Intel are working to make it easier to build wide-area wireless-equipped machines. Intel and the GSM Association, an industry group that promotes GSM operators, have announced plans to collaborate to create guidelines for adding modems and SIM cards to notebooks so that they might automatically connect to cellular data networks. The market for wide-area wireless-capable notebooks itself is also projected to grow quickly toward the end of the decade. It could reach as high as 20 million units by 2010, according to a recent report by EndPoint Technologies Associates. "WWANs give the user something unobtainable via 802.11: freedom," Roger Kay, president of EndPoint, in Wayland, Mass., wrote in the report. "Once a customer has a data plan in place, he or she can connect anywhere in the coverage area, which will expand for 3G networks in the United States throughout the forecast period." But carriers and also notebook makers such as Dell must make some concessions to foster that growth. "To stimulate this market, service pricing should be brought down as soon as is practically possible," Kay wrote. "Carriers should consider creating pay-as-you-go plans to reach into lower demographics that do not like to be committed to a monthly payment and to appeal to casual users who want to access the network only once in a while." Notebook makers should also take note of the trend, Kay wrote, and consider offering a larger selection of smaller, lighter machines with relatively long battery life. Editors Note: This story was updated to clarify the name of the main Cingular service Dell is offering. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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