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First seamless 4G mobile data devices in sight

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Chip firm ST Ericsson says it has developed devices which will allow users to use the latest 4G mobile networks in Scandinavia seamlessly, without the need to switch dongles.

TeliaSonera launched its 4G network in Sweden and Norway earlier this week, but early adopters are being issued with a pair of USB dongles for manual switching between the fast-but-limited-coverage 4G (LTE) connections and the more-ubiquitous 3G (HSPA) network, with promises of a free upgrade to a multimode dongle when such a thing is available - which is just what ST Ericsson is now demonstrating. Their latest gear can switch between LTE, HSPA, EDGE and basic GPRS as required.

ST Ericsson is a chip provider, so consumer devices are probably a few months off - TeliaSonera reckons the middle of next year, but it's hard to imagine their LTE offering is going to draw a lot of customers until they can just plug in the dongle and expect to get connectivity regardless of the generation of coverage available.

Those backing LTE technology would like to see it embedded in laptops and the like, though with Intel still subscribing to the WiMAX dream we'll be using dongles for a while. But laptops sporting LTE will probably come before handsets, as the speed advantage is harder to exploit on a mobile phone's screen.

Being able to play with a real, and publicly accessible, LTE network is a big step forward, and we'll probably see a few more manufacturers heading for Sweden to show off their kit over the next few weeks. ®

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