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T-Mobile webConnect USB Laptop Stick
T-Mobile is continuing its initially delayed but now rapidly rolling-out AWS-based network, saying it will cover 230 U.S. cities by the end of the year.
To help support the rollout, T-Mobile this week unveiled its webConnect USB Laptop Stick, which links users with Wi-Fi hotspots or with T-Mobile's network.
The network rollout -- based on T-Mobile's $4 billion purchase of AWS spectrum in 2006 -- eventually will cover 200 million Americans. While both measures -- the network and the laptop stick -- represent efforts to catch up with other U.S. cell phone service providers, T-Mobile continues to add subscribers a high rate and in particular is gaining on subscriber-losing Sprint, which is the third-largest wireless carrier behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T.
The network is based on UMTS/HSDPA technology, and the U.S. rollout began in New York City just last April.
The new laptop stick features HSDPA/UMTS-1900/AWS/2100 tri-band connectivity. In regions where T-Mobile has no 3G network, the laptop stick will pick up dial-up speed GPRS/EDGE.
T-Mobile has long offered Wi-Fi in specialized service offerings. Its pioneering Wi-Fi deal with Starbucks introduced the concept of laptop mobility to the first generation of computing road warriors. Eventually AT&T pushed into Starbucks locations, too, and after some brief litigation, the two wireless competitors worked out an agreement to coexist at the coffee shops. That novelty has worn off along with Starbucks' own homegrown effort to provide Wi-Fi to its customers via its Starbucks Rewards Program.
Many traveling laptop users now visit Wi-Fi hotspots that are open to all without proprietary plans, but, if they use a propriety laptop stick, they must pay dearly. The T-Mobile stick costs $249 to purchase outright, but it's available for $49.99 with a two-year contract and $99.99 with a one-year contract. Rebates may be involved in the contracts.
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