The case for integrated 3G in netbooks


Dell_inspiron_mini_9I have been using 3G in my notebooks since it was first available.  Actually, truth be told I was using it long before it was 3G, maybe 1.5G is more accurate.  It is easily the most useful tool in my bag and I was happy to see Dell stating that integrated 3G would be available in the new Mini netbook in just a few days.  Kevin and I have had many conversations discussing the "integrated 3G vs. external 3G solutions" debate and while external solutions have always served us well there is a strong case that can be made for integrated 3G.

Kevin and I are not your typical netbook users, we both change mobile devices like most folks change their socks so an integrated 3G solution is not the best for us.  Kevin is quite happy with his USB solution and I with my ExpressCard 3G solution.  Even so, I have used a number of devices with integrated 3G and I believe it is the way to go for the average consumer who wants unbridled connectivity.  An integrated solution is perfect for the person who buys a netbook and uses that device alone on all those mobile adventures.  Windows can be configured to always look for a high-speed connection and when one is not available to automatically fire up the internal 3G.  This is basically seamless and very useful for getting online without thinking about.  At least you don’t think about it until the monthly statement comes in crying for attention.  I feel that integrated 3G is a good value for those who work in mobile settings frequently and for whom connectivity is important.  Having that connectivity built into a netbook is a very nice proposition and it should be considered for certain.  Having that netbook price subsidized by the carrier offering the 3G sweetens the deal to be very attractive indeed.



I would love to see a netbook 3G ( up to UMTS/HSDPA speeds) where you can just insert any SIM card of your choice so that you wont get stuck with monthly fees/high price services.

also this way, you wont need to plug-in anything (i.e USB 3G modem) and there would be no other devices sticking out. Just your plain Netbook.

Simon Dale

James: It would be a moot point if ALL of your devices had integrated 3G as I only wish they did.

I’m in the UK and I use a Pay as you go T-Mobile SIM card. If I don’t use it it costs me nothing, if I use it it costs me a maximum of £1 per day. If I buy a “5 day pass” (just by texting WEB to 441 from my laptop) it costs me .50p per day.

Its UMTS/ HSDPA and I get speeds of around 1.8mbps.

I’d happily put SIM cards like this in 5 different devices if I had them! Then whichever one I pick up in the morning gets the £1 of credit spent for that day.

Of course if I was going to use a particular device on 3g every single day I could go for a contract SIM for around £15 a month from T-Mobile.

I use a Fujitsu Siemens P1610 with integrated 3g. I’d like to switch to an Acer Aspire or similar at some point but until they have integrated 3g there is no way. Its just too useful to have it onboard.

Brian Goodwin

I agree with the first poster that the “case for integrated 3G” totally misses the PRICE issue. Costs me $20 a month to get FAST data with my tethered Verizon smart phone (Samsung 760)…and I can tether it to ANY DEVICE. This has been handy and I have tethered to netbooks and desktops alike. Why would I pay over twice as much to be STUCK with one provider on my new netbook?

Travis Carnahan

I have to take issue with your statement,”we both change mobile devices like most folks change their socks”. Since You guys change through multiple devices in one day, I’m sure you go through many more devices in typical day than my one pair of socks! ;-)


Those are all very good points James, but you’re forgetting one thing – PRICE.

$19.99 gets me unlimited data with my T-Mobile PDA over EDGE. Granted, it’s not as fast as EVDO, but I have the luxury of tethering the device to any netbook/laptop and be online. When you need to just check your email or quickly get to a web page and can’t get to a free wifi spot, it really does work great.

With integrated 3G I’ll get faster speed. But I’m STUCK WITH whatever provider’s service works with the hardware inside – a problem if the device you’re looking at requires an ATT service agreement and ATT happens to have no signal or poor service in your area. Likewise, I’ll be paying at least $60-$80 and be subject to fees or throttling if I go over that 5GB allotment. Some providers do not have a cap if you open a business account.

Interestingly, T-Mobile is the only carrier right now that offers a no-strings unlimited data plan. It won’t be EVDO, just EDGE, you’ll need a card slot or adapter and the plan price will set you back $39.99.

Convenience is cool. But having to pay the price for that convenience is not cool.

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