Mobile World Congress HP is to incorporate Qualcomm's Gobi chips into its laptops, supporting both CDMA and GSM 3G technologies and making Wi-Fi connectivity redundant.
The Gobi chipset is designed to provide the international traveller with connectivity everywhere (or at least everywhere with 3G, except Japan) and, by reusing as many components as possible, Qualcomm has managed to keep the cost comparable to embedding either technology.
CDMA and GSM are fundamentally incompatible technologies, so very few devices support both - as anyone who travels between the USA and Europe will testify. Even if such a device was available, there are few roaming agreements between GSM and CDMA operators which would allow customers of one network to roam to another, something which is going to have to change if devices supporting both technologies are going to have any success.
Qualcomm and HP would like to see operators adopting a more flexible approach to data access. Offering limited-time or volume connections in the same way as Wi-Fi hotspots do now, just select a carrier from those locally available and the Gobi system will load all that carrier's settings off the laptop's hard drive.
Such a model would require network operators to think very differently about their business. With 3G speeds already comparable with Wi-Fi in many cities, the only thing sustaining the hotspot business is overcharging by the network operators, so the ability to offer foreign travellers a few hours access at a hotspot-like price could be appealing.
The Gobi chipset will be included in HP laptops coming out later this year. ®