By Walter S. Mossberg
For traveling laptop users who rely on the Internet, one of the best
developments in recent years has been the emergence of high-speed
wireless data networks offered by cellphone companies. Unlike
commercial public Wi-Fi services, which require users to be near a
"hot spot," these services can be used anywhere in a metro area, even
in a moving car or train.
And the cellular broadband services, such as Verizon Wireless's
BroadbandAccess, can operate at speeds roughly equivalent to, and
sometimes well beyond, the speed of basic wired home DSL service.
That means you can surf the Web, and get email and large attachments
A small percentage of users hook up to these cellular broadband
networks using laptops that have the necessary gear built in. Another
small group uses a cellphone as a modem. But most users of these
networks use external cellular-modem cards that plug into a standard
slot on the side of their laptops. Therein lies a problem.
The computer industry is in the process of dumping that standard slot,
called a PC Card slot, for a new, incompatible slot called
ExpressCard. So, buyers of many new laptops are finding their
cellphone modems are obsolete.
Now, Novatel, a leading maker of these cards, has come out with aq
couple of new ExpressCard versions for cellular broadband networks.
One, which works on Verizon Wireless's network, is already on the
market, sold by Verizon and by Dell. The second, which works on
Cingular's BroadbandConnect high-speed network, will go on sale from
Dell and possibly Cingular later this year, likely late November.