LONDON A group of 16 leading telecoms and IT companies is uniting to promote mobile broadband in a marketing initiative worth more than $1 billion over the next year under the auspices of the GSM Association.
The companies -- which include Vodafone, Microsoft and Asustek -- aim to make it simpler for consumers to identify laptops that have built-in access to the Internet via high-speed, next-generation HSPA and LTE networks.
According to research commissioned by the GSMA and Microsoft and carried out by Pyramid Research, there is demand for $50 billion worth of such notebooks this year.
"We definitely expect to see several hundred thousand in the shops by Christmas time," Mike O'Hara, the GSMA's chief marketing officer, told Reuters by telephone.
The group said the move also could pave the way to connect devices from MP3 music players to refrigerators and cars to the Internet in future.
The partners will label laptop computers that meet their standards for mobile broadband access with a new service mark that identifies laptops ready for mobile broadband connection "out of the box."
Many in the telecoms and computer industries believe that most people in the world will have their first and perhaps only experience of the Internet via a mobile device.
"While there will always be a place for WiFi connectivity, the great benefit of mobile broadband might be that it liberates the user from the spatial tyranny of the so-called 'hotspot,'" Shiv K. Bakhshi, director of mobility research at IT research firm IDC, said in a GSMA statement released on Tuesday.
The other partners in the initiative are 3, a unit Hutchison Whampoa Ltd Dell, ECS, Ericsson, Gemalto, Lenovo, Orange, a unit of France Telecom SA, Qualcomm, Telefonica Europe, T-Mobile and Toshiba.
(Reporting by Niclas Mika in Amsterdam; writing by Georgina Prodhan in London; editing by Carol Bishopric)