ThinkPad Notebooks Get Built-In WAN Tech

Updated: Lenovo and Cingular announce a plan to add high-speed wireless modems to some ThinkPad notebooks.

Major wireless carriers and hardware makers are teaming up to include in notebook computers embedded support for the highest-speed WANs, as an alternative to Wi-Fi connections.

Lenovo Group Ltd. and Cingular Wireless LLC on Wednesday announced that upcoming ThinkPad notebooks will come preconfigured with an HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) modem.

Cingular launched its HSDPA network in 16 cities last month.

The service provides average throughput rates of 400K bps to 700K bps, with bursts of up to a 1M bps, according officials at Cingular, in Atlanta.

HSDPA is an upgrade to the companys existing EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution) network and is backward-compatible with EDGE, as are HSDPA modems.

ThinkPad notebooks that run on the high-speed Cingular network are due by the beginning of the second quarter of this year. The HSDPA option will be available as an option on the ThinkPad Z60, in addition to two new notebooks, the T60 and X60 series, which Lenovo introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, said Lenovo officials in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The T60 and X60 also will feature optional integrated support for Verizon Wireless EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) service, which the Z60 already offers.

"Im a great advocate of Verizon Wireless Broadband, which has recently extended my office to the entire metro areas of Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago and San Jose," said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and Caregroup Health Systems, in Boston.

Meanwhile, competitor Hewlett-Packard Co. this week introduced the nc6140, a notebook PC that features integrated dual antennas and preinstalled software that lets it run on Verizons EV-DO network.

"The resulting performance is better [than with a PC card modem] because the whole notebook has been optimized for the network," said Peter Rysavy, president of Rysavy Research, a consultancy in Hood River, Ore.

Dell Inc. also has plans for notebooks embedded with HSDPA. They should be available by the end of March, said Dell officials in Austin, Texas.

On the other hand, the company has no immediate plans for mobile WiMax, a nascent wireless broadband technology that has been hyped as a beefed-up version of Wi-Fi. Based on the recently ratified IEEE 802.16e standard, it boasts throughput rates of up to 40M bps per channel. But carriers have yet to commit to widespread deployment. And while mobile WiMax proponents say the technology may appear in products by early 2007, many industry observers think it may be longer than that.

"Mobile WiMax wont be here for a couple of years," said Anne Camden, a spokeswoman for Dell in Austin, Texas. "3G is here today."

"Im a big EVDO user, but do not hear much about mobile WiMax from the carriers," Halamka said.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about industry perspectives on WiMax implementation.

Meanwhile, carriers continue to roll out higher-speed cellular networks.

"Those technologies will not stand still," said Rysavy, who recently published a comprehensive report comparing HSDPA, EV-DO and mobile WiMax. "Its going to be years before you see mobile WiMax networks widely deployed."

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information on HP and comments from Harvard Medical Schools Halamka.

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