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Intel looks to SIM cards for universal wireless access

Diplomatically ignores WiMAX in 3G-oriented press statement

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Intel has backed an initiative to equip future notebooks with a SIM card slot, the better to integrate support for 3G mobile phone network connectivity into the machines. The scheme, launched this week by the GSM Association (GSMA), has the goal of making GSM, GPRS and 3G connectivity as ubiquitous in tomorrow's laptops as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are today.

The chip giant will work with the GSMA to develop guidelines for manufacturers keen to incorporate 3G support and, crucially, the next-generation High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology, which accelerates 3G-hosted downloads to true broadband speeds. The advice will also show how best to add SIM slots and allow machines to connect automatically to WLANs and 3G WANs, and to roam seamlessly between them.

Intel and the GSMA will promote the guidelines and the technologies underpinning them to PC makers, network operators and network infrastructure providers alike.

Curiously, Intel didn't mention WiMAX in this discussion of high-bandwidth network connections. To date, Intel has always claimed WiMAX will be more suitable for notebook users that 3G, offering faster, more IP-centric connections. However, HSDPA is gaining momentum right now in a way that WiMAX has perhaps failed to do so far. Dell, Acer and others have already said they plan to ship HSDPA-enabled notebooks this year, though in the first instance these will simply be laptops with bundled 3G data cards.

That said, Intel appears more interested in SIM technology than 3G. The bundling of HSDPA cards with Centrino notebooks, said Intel mobility chief Sean Maloney, "will turn the notebook into a real multi-communications terminal, and the SIM into a real authentication vehicle for GSM, GPRS, EDGE, 3GSM, HSDPA and Wi-Fi networks".

The last phrase is key: Intel wants the SIM to be the universal login for any network, and Maloney may as well have mentally included WiMAX in his list if not in the press statement itself. ®

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