HP promises global wireless for notebook PCs

Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to integrate global broadband wireless capability in future business notebook PCs.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) plans to release business notebook PCs later this year with integrated global broadband wireless connectivity, the company said Tuesday.

HP, of California, will team with Cingular Wireless, of Georgia, to add integrated UMTS/HSDPA technology to certain notebooks. The move will simplify wireless networking for overseas travellers and help HP to compete better against products like Dell's Latitude notebook.

UMTS is the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, a network standard that uses WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology to boost capacity and data speed compared to second generation (2G) mobile networks. HSDPA is High Speed Downlink Packet Access, a mobile broadband standard capable of reaching downlink speeds of 14.4M bits per second.

HP claims it will be the first vendor to enable its customers to use a single computer to access both U.S.-based wireless connections like Cingular's BroadbandConnect and EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) networks and also overseas networks using standards such as UMTS.

"Wireless, more than any other technology, is driving the adoption of our business notebook line. Staying connected when you're on the road is fundamental to the value proposition of a notebook," said Matt Wagner, manager for product marketing at HP.

HP has been extending the wireless range of its business notebooks starting with the January launch of the HP Compaq nc6140, which offers 3G wireless WAN supported by Verizon Wireless.

Until now, business travelers who wanted to get wireless WAN access in multiple countries had to use a third-party PC card. In comparison, the new HP notebooks will use an internal antenna that is technology-specific and region-specific.

"This will offer better durability. It will have no external antennas to break off, and will be better designed in terms of how the radio antenna interacts with RF signals from other computer components," Wagner said.

As wireless networks reach critical mass in coverage and throughput, HP thinks business users are finally ready to rely on integrated wireless connections.

Analysts agree.

"This is a very smart move on HP's part," said Richard Doherty, research director at The Envisioneering Group, in New York. "Wireless connectivity still costs an arm and a leg unless you're on 3G. So this is crucial in overseas markets."

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Ben Ames

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