Sierra Wireless believes that laptop PCs too thin even to support an Ethernet port are ideal candidates for an embedded LTE connectivity. On Thursday it unveiled its latest LTE module, which, at 2.5 mm in thickness, Sierra claims is the thinnest 4G wireless module in the market.
The device is aimed squarely at the ultra-thin laptop, a trend that Apple made popular with the MacBook Air and on which Intel is trying to capitalize with its new Ultrabook platform. Sierra is also targeting the module at tablet manufacturers looking to easily slot LTE into their slates without going through the trouble of integrating the radio with other components.
Called the AirPrime EM7700, the module uses Qualcomm’s Gobi modem architecture and is scheduled to begin shipping this quarter, making it into its first commercial laptops and tablets later this year. If you’re wondering which carrier will be the first to offer devices with the new ultra-thin module, you don’t have to look further than AT&T. The initial release of the module will support AT&T’s combination of LTE and HSPA frequencies, meaning it won’t be compatible with any other U.S. networks.
Sierra is also looking to embed LTE in more than just laptops. It has been working with Audi to install its 4G modules directly into car dashboards. Audi is testing the feasibility of making the car the world’s biggest wireless gadget, using 4G’s fat pipe to deliver video and other bandwidth-intensive applications to the car’s infotainment system.
The approach is at odds with the way most Detroit automakers have looked at the connected car. Instead of relying on embedded 3G/4G, systems like Ford Sync and Cadillac’s CUE depend on drivers linking their cars to the Internet through their smartphones.