3 is the first operator to follow Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4u in bundling laptops and mobile broadband dongles.
The move is the first of a wave of expected initiatives to distribute free laptops through mobile channels to take advantage of big sales opportunities, with the new university intake and the Christmas market fast approaching.
3 is poised to roll out a range of 24-month deals by the beginning of August, opening the floodgates for other networks to follow suit.
Vodafone and Orange are tipped to enter the market in the autumn in a bid to capitalise on demand from the new university intake.
3 will launch deals at £30, £35 and £40 per month, including 5GB of data access.
Broadband dongles are seen as ‘the flavour of the month’ selling at a rate of 30,000 per week, but connections are typically on 12-month contracts or even prepaid.
Bundling laptops will mean that operators will be able to tie customers in for two years.
Major grocery retailers are also eyeing up the opportunities, although Mobile understands that market leader Tesco is unlikely to launch a product line this year.
One distributor said: ‘We have talked to them about it and they are interested.’
Meanwhile, distributors will target mobile dealers and IT resellers with a number of packages soon to be unveiled.
George McPherson, head of Data Select, said: ‘We are working on propositions across a number of sectors.’
He added that there were ‘risks associated’ with such high-value goods. ‘We have to be thinking in terms of what clawbacks there might be.
‘There are propositions we are working through right now. This is flavour of the month. But we have to ensure it is not a cashback flavour of the month.’
3 will stock three Hewlett Packard computers, including the Pavilion DV6000, with its mobile broadband modems to sell in its stores.
A spokesman for Orange said: ‘We will have laptops in our stores within six weeks.’ Meanwhile, Vodafone’s head of laptop connectivity, Alec Howard, said that the operator was ‘considering its options’ regarding laptops in its stores.