Lenovo to launch Super 3G laptops

Lenovo has become the latest company to begin integrating high-speed mobile data into its laptops.

On Tuesday, the company announced that it had signed a deal with Vodafone to allow Lenovo laptops to carry connectivity for its third-generation (3G) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) wireless technologies. In the future, they will also tap High-Speed Downlink Packet Access technology.

HSDPA, also known as Super 3G, is being introduced by network operators Vodafone and Optus this year, and is much faster than standard 3G services.

Lenovo said it will add this integrated networking to its ThinkPad T60 and X60 notebooks. They will be available in some European countries, including the U.K., France and Germany, in the second quarter of 2006. Lenovo refused to comment on an Australian release date.

While HSPDA support will not be available immediately, ThinkPad customers will be able to upgrade their notebooks to this faster technology in the future, Lenovo said in a statement.

Last week, Dell became the first major systems vendor to announce that it had signed a deal, again with Vodafone, to start selling laptops with built-in wireless broadband--including support for HSDPA--sometime in the second quarter.

Up until now, the take-up of data services on mobile phones has been slow, and analysts have argued that services like HSDPA have needed the backing of the major systems vendors before they will become popular. But systems vendors have been reluctant to commit to selling systems using the mobile standards because of the high cost of using mobile technology for data.

Lenovo's new service, when available, will allow users to access e-mail, the Internet and corporate servers through the Vodafone network.

HSDPA can already support download speeds of up to 1.4Mbps, and incremental upgrades are expected to raise this to 10Mbps by 2008. In tests carried out by ZDNet UK, peak download speed was measured at 1.29Mbps with an average more than 10 minutes of 480Kbps. Video streamed at 300Kbps displayed perfectly.

Lenovo said that its Access Connections 4.1 software will simplify the process of connecting to the various wireless networking standards that the laptops will support.

"Our new Access Connections 4.1 software works with Vodafone's 3G network, enabling users to move seamlessly from one available network connection to the next without downtime or costly help desk calls," said Marc Godin, vice president of notebook marketing for Lenovo.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London. CNET.com.au's Asher Moses also contributed to this report.

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