Laptop manufacturers are working with mobile operators to offer laptops pre-loaded with Sim cards to access the internet.
With more consumers using laptops to get online, mobile operators are looking to wean customers off fixed-line and even Wi-Fi, offering pre-loaded 3G Sims for instant internet access.
Vodafone has signed a deal with Dell, and is heavily promoting the offer in publications aimed at business customers. T-Mobile has agreed deals with seven laptop manufacturers, including HP, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens and Toshiba to embed laptops with connectivity to its 3G/HSDPA network.
Because the market for laptops with embedded 3G connectivity is still in its infancy, there is a £120 premium for laptops with embedded Sims, although prices are expected to fall. The current high price has kept sales low; T-Mobile’s head of OEM and IT, Adrian Williams, said the operator shifted only 5,000 embedded laptop connections last year.
Laptop manufacturer HP already has embedded Sims in seven out of its 12 business laptops, with more promised this year. Stephen Gales, senior category manager for business notebooks at HP, said: ‘The main market for the product is businesses, but as economies of scale take over and the price of the hardware begins to fall, embedded laptops will also start attracting consumers.’
Gales believes the future business model for selling embedded laptops will be very similar to how mobile phones are sold, with network operators subsidising the hardware.
‘I think the market is going to change in that way. We are having some of those conversations right now. It’s a great opportunity for the carriers,’ he said.
Networks are still reluctant to take any of the cost, however. ‘T-Mobile is not looking to subsidise notebooks; however, it is likely that our channel partners may want to offer some incentive to customers who buy T-Mobile Mobile Broadband, with their notebooks,’ said Williams.