3G Via USB Trumps PC Card And Embedded

Novatel says USB is its most popular platform, offering a level of portability and flexibility attractive to end users.

August 13, 2007

2 Min Read
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It seems as if the 3G wireless card vendors (Novatel Wireless and SierraWireless, in particular) issue new product announcements and carrier dealson almost a weekly basis, but it's not all marketing hoopla. The productlife cycles of these access products can be less than a year. A quickrun-down of the acronyms for GSM-based cellular data technologies: GPRS,EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, and HSPA and CDMA technologies: IS-95B, CDMA-1xRTT, EV-DO

Rev. 0, EV-DO Rev. A., EV-DO Rev. B confirm that change has been the norm.Combine that with carrier and partner wins and their names appear almostcontinuously on the wire.

Much has been made of laptops embedded with 3G -- all of the major laptopmanufacturers have announced deals with carriers and hardware suppliers.Novatel President Brad Weinert says that although their embedded platform isvery strong, seeing about 10% growth quarter over quarter, there's no hockeystick curve. According to Weinert, about 10% of enterprise laptops haveembedded 3G cards, but only a little over half of them have a servicecontract.

Embedding the access device makes it difficult to lose, break, or getstolen. So it was surprising for me to hear that USB is Novatel's mostpopular platform. According to Novatel it offers a level of portability andflexibility attractive to end users. It works well in a modem pools where afew 3G devices are shared among a larger group. Just as importantly, thecarrier's sales force prefers USB because it's an interface that theircustomers more easily understand. Even with desktops, the vast majority ofPC users prefer USB even though PCI to PCMCIA controller cards exist as itdoesn't require cracking open the case.

Unlike unchanging wired Ethernet jack found on almost all laptops, itappears that radio access technology vendors for Wi-Fi, 3G, and soon WiMAX,will continue to challenge IT departments to manage both the distribution,software maintenance, and costs for a long time to come. In the meantime,it appears that external access module such as USB offers organizations theflexibility to upgrade their hardware as carriers rev their accesstechnology to yet even faster speeds every year.

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