New ThinkPads Extend Wi-Fi

By David Needle

January 04, 2006

Lenovo links to high-speed network with Cingular deal.

Wi-Fi is so 2005.

Lenovo said it joined Cingular to expand the connectivity options for mobile notebook computer users. Upcoming versions of Lenovo's ThinkPad notebook line will integrate wireless wide area network (WWAN) technology from Cingular providing high-speed Internet access to Cingular's BroadbandConnect service without a separate PC card or additional hardware.

The first of the new WWAN-enabled ThinkPads are expected in March.

BroadBandConnect represents a huge increase over Wi-Fi connection speeds. The companies say they will be able to deliver average mobile data connections between 400Kbps and 700Kbps on the downlink and bursts to more than a megabit per second using Cingular's 3G network based on UMTS and HSDPA technology .

The high speed service was just launched last month. In addition to higher speeds, BroadbandConnect means Cingular subscribers won't have to rely on being near a wireless hub or Wi-Fi hot spots.

But BroadbandConnect access is hardly ubiquitous. In the U.S., BroadbandConnect is available in 52 communities, including such cities as Boston, Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Nev., and Austin, Texas.

Cingular said it's committed to extending the service to most major markets by the end of this year. Alternatively, Lenovo says the new ThinkPads will be able to connect seamlessly to Cingular's EDGE service, which is available in 13,000 cities and towns at typical speeds of 70Kbps to 135Kbps.

"We'll be the only ones out there with integrated wireless WAN; it's a nice differentiator for us," Bill Iori, worldwide ThinkPad segment manager for Lenovo, told internetnews.com.

The latest version of Lenovo's Access Connections software, version 4.1, works with Cingular BroadbandConnect, and is designed to let users move seamlessly from one available network connection to the next without downtime or the need to make help desk calls.

The companies said ThinkPad users will have wireless access abroad in more than 90 countries where Cingular has data roaming agreements.

Lenovo continues to invest heavily in trying to differentiate the popular ThinkPad line from its competitors.

An integrated fingerprint reader has been available for a few years on most ThinkPad models as an additional security feature (beyond password protection). It's part of a broad set of security tools offered by Lenovo on select systems that include Client Security Solution 6.0 software and an embedded security chip.

In December, Lenovo sold its 1 millionth ThinkPad with integrated fingerprint reader, making the company the largest provide of biometric-enabled PCs in the world.



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