OEM deals to push Vodafone mobile broadband

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OEM deals to push Vodafone mobile broadband
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Vodafone is seeking to extend the recent European OEM partnership it signed with Dell to Australia.

Vodafone is seeking to extend the recent European OEM partnership it signed with Dell to Australia.

The telco is working with Dell Australia on a deal to start marketing notebooks with an embedded version of its mobile broadband Media Connect card.

Discussions are also underway with three other global PC manufacturers for similar deals.

The Media Connect card provides access to voice, data and video services via Vodafone’s 3G network.

The OEM initiative is part of a strategy to drive the mobile broadband category in Australia, Vodafone general manager business, Mark Iles, said.

“We’re investing in the technology such that by 2006 we will have speeds of up to 1.5 megabits,” he said. “And by embedding the technology we think it will become a core piece of functionality, just like wi-fi.”

The explosion in notebook sales and changing consumer expectations had also prompted the initiative, Iles said.

“People realise they are connected at the office and at home but in between they’re not,” he said. “They just want to be connected where ever they are and pay one bill.”

The decision to work with Dell was not a question of favouring a direct sales approach for the new OEMing strategy, Iles said.

“The strategy is to go with companies we can deal with globally so we can leverage a deal to Vodafone in each country,” he said. “We’d certainly look to expand this into the systems builder channel at a later date.”

Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde, said the judges were still out the significance of the development.

“It’s good that Vodafone are finally getting serious about this market but making products available to OEMs isn’t enough,” he said. “They have to change their business model otherwise they face pricing themselves out of the market.”

Being a dedicated data technology, Wimax was also starting to come to the fore as the preferred technology for applications like mobile VoIP, Budde said.

Unwired CEO and director David Spence, said he saw the deal as the natural evolution of connectivity hardware from external modems to wireless cards to built-in chips.

He also said Unwired continued to work closely with Intel on its own OEM deals and was not concerned about similar deals creating a captive-market scenario similar to Internet Explorer and Netscape.

“It could be the case that in a couple of years notebooks come with wi-fi, Wimax and 3G chips embedded,” he said. “The customer will simply choose whatever service is most cost effective for them.”

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