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Vodafone preps monthly phone- style PC rentals

Cheap notebooks, pricey access

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European PC maker Fujitsu Siemens (FSC) has partnered with Vodafone to offer what it claims is the world's first mobile phone-style monthly notebook contract.

Under the Connect2Air package, the computer costs £99 ($180), on top of which the user signs up to a monthly airtime contract of £89 ($162) or more, depending on the connectivity options selected, including Vodafone's cellular GPRS network and Wi-Fi hotspots.

Vodafone is offering a range of FSC notebooks and tablet PCs, all based on Intel's Centrino platform. The prices of the hardware range from £1139 to £1478. Buying via Connect2Air will set you back £2235 ($4077), based on a minimum two-year contract and taking the basic £89 contract. The deal also includes a bundled Vodafone £100 Mobile Connect Card for GPRS network access.

That amounts to a mark-up of £41.50 ($75) a month for Net access. This, the partners claim, is an "easier" and "more affordable" way for businesses to buy IT. Certainly it saves buyers from having to make an initial, up-front payment. But then so does a credit card or bank loan. Each option allows a small business to buy a computer without affecting its monthly cash flow.

The packages are aimed at businesses that want to take advantage of mobile technology but need to keep a tight rein on costs.

Depending on usage, of course, a business could buy the equivalent access and technology for around £1681. Heavy GPRS usage and regular Wi-Fi access would bring the overall two-year cost closer to or beyond the cost of Connect2Air.

Connect2Air packages go on sale on 1 March via Carphone Warehouse and online through PC resellers Microwarehouse and Insight. ®

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