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3G laptops to become a must for businesses

New pricing plans expected later this year

Laptops with embedded 3G capability could become a must-have for businesses from next year, with new technologies and pricing plans making them more viable purchases, according to Gartner.

Gartner said the high cost of the hardware and steep monthly charges have so far convinced businesses to shy away from investing in 3G laptops. But the analyst believes this will start to change by the end of 2008.

"Our standing recommendation against embedding wireless WAN (WWAN) cards in notebooks - except for applications with a clear return-on-investment justification - has been based on lack of global coverage, high costs and poor asset protection," said Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

"However, new technologies and pricing due by the end of 2008 have the potential to eliminate the problems of embedded, wireless 3G notebook purchases."

Gartner said 3G laptops would become a viable proposition for "moderate to extensive travellers" in 2009 following the availability of chipsets that combine multiple technologies and frequencies to provide nearly "universal geographic coverage".

The analyst said such technologies promise a three-year "useful life". 3G operators are also beginning to recognise the value of going beyond two-year contracts to include daily and monthly rates, as well as programs for letting international travellers use local rates on pay-per-day plans, Gartner said.

"Various influencing factors are transitioning to a point where embedded 3G will become superior from a cost perspective compared with previously used alternatives, such as Wi-Fi hotspots and hotel broadband for wide-area use," said Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner.

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