Kamis, 08 Juli 2010

Diving into the data plan pool

Best Buy will offer laptops with a 3G data service that uses Sprint's cellular network to reach beyond hot spots.

This weekend, Best Buy Co. Inc. will start selling laptops for people who want an Internet connection nearly anywhere, not just where there's a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Starting Sunday, a new service called Best Buy Connect will provide Internet connections through Sprint's cell phone network for new laptop and netbook PCs that have built-in cellular modems.
Customers who buy the service can earn discounts of up to $275 on the price of other Best Buy products. The discount can be applied to the initial purchase of a PC equipped with the cellular data service.
Best Buy declined to say whether PCs equipped with cellular modems would cost more than regular laptops and netbooks.
Unlike Wi-Fi hot spots, which are often free at coffee shops and restaurants, the cellular service will cost from $30 to $60 a month for "3G" cellular download speeds of aabout 1.5 million bits per second. The trade-off is that Wi-Fi hot spots are only islands of connectivity in a city, while 3G cell service is broadly available.
The consumer electronics giant appears to be primarily interested in using the Internet service to sell more electronics products in the future rather than to be a tough competitor in the cellular Internet business. The Best Buy Internet service is priced similarly to the data plans of cell phone companies, which have long offered cellular modems for PCs. Best Buy's Internet pricing plan resembles Sprint's, but it offers two lower-priced tiers of service that Sprint doesn't.
"Subscription services are fundamentally new to Best Buy, and yet are a natural extension of what we do," said Best Buy spokesman Justin Barber. "Experts will tell you that there's still huge room for growth and improvement in these [mobile data] services. Unlike mobile voice services, mobile broadband services are growing at double digit rates."
Downloads will be limited to 5 gigabytes (5 billion bytes) of data per month for $60, or one-tenth that much data (500 million bytes) for $40 a month. There will be additional charges for downloading more than your monthly allotment of data.
But the PCs also will be equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, so that customers can avoid using up their monthly quota of data when they download big software updates; they can find a free Wi-Fi hot spot and use that Internet connection instead.
Customers can sign up for the service online, then download the software needed to make the PC's cellular modem work.
The service will be available through most Best Buy stores.
Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553

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