EV-DO in the Notebook

By Eric Griffith

September 19, 2005

Lenovo, HP, and Dell will all be embedding support for Verizon Wireless' wide area network in their products.

Everyone expects to get Wi-Fi in a notebook these days -- but soon you should also expect to get wireless wide area network (WWAN) access.

Today, major notebook makers Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo (the latter now owns the popular ThinkPad line of products originally from IBM's Personal Computing Division) all announced support for the Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess network in future models.

BroadbandAccess is built on the 3G (third-generation) WWAN technology called Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO). Verizon Wireless (VW) has deployed EV-DO in 61 cities and 65 airports in the United States, with more to come.  EV-DO allows downloads of data at speeds around 400 to 700 Kbps. That's not even close to the worst Wi-Fi speed, but the range is much more extensive -- and it's mobile, like a cell phone. You can surf the Web while in the car or on the bus if you're in range of an EV-DO base station. Moving out of range, a VW subscriber will switch automatically to VW's NationalAccess 1xRTT network. Downloads can still happen, but at speeds limited to 80 Kpbs.

Competitor Sprint Nextel is also working on an EV-DO network of its own -- the two don't allow any roaming at this time.  Sprint Nextel just released its first smartphone with a 1.3 megapixel digital camera for the business market that uses EV-DO for fast data connections and voice calls.

Lenovo says the ThinkPad Z-series, specifically the Z60m and Z60t, will have an antenna for VW-based EV-DO access integrated so there's no need for an external antenna on an inserted PC Card, which is the usual way to get a laptop onto an EV-DO network. This will also be one of the first ThinkPads you can get in a color besides black: brushed titanium is also an option on select models. Prices will start at $1099 for the 14-inch Z60t and $799 for the 15.4-inch Z60m.  Both will be available in October.

Dell and HP are getting into bed with VW in the marketing of EV-DO. For now, they will be limited to selling EV-DO cards like the VW V620 PC Card to laptop customers -- integration won't happen until 2006. Cards are also available from third parties like Sierra Wireless.

These laptops aren't the first to integrate 3G support. Earlier this year, Sony announced a laptop, model VAIO T350, that builds in support for the similar Enhanced Data for Global Evolution (EDGE) network run by Cingular Wireless. Sony calls its integration of EDGE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth "SmartWi."  Today, Sony announced a new $2,300 VAIO TX model weighing 2.8 pounds  that also supports EDGE.  EDGE is slower than EV-DO, with speeds between 100kbps and 135kbps. Pricing starts at $50 per year with a two-year contract, plus extra charges per kilobyte downloaded over 50MB, and more when roaming internationally.

Last month, VW dropped the price of BroadbandAccess from $80 per month to $60 per month, but only for those with a two-year commitment and a VW mobile voice plan.



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