Consumers' growing demand to be connected anywhere, anytime has prompted more mobile phone companies to woo customers by offering them free laptops if they sign up for a mobile broadband deal.
Carphone Warehouse started the trend last September when it started to give away laptops to customers buying their home broadband package. Now, Orange has followed suit offering a free compact PC with their mobile broadband
deal at £25 a month.
Phones4U also announced that it would sell laptops in their shops, and indicated that, in time, the company may offer them for free with their mobile phone contracts.
The new trend comes as the demand for data transfers to mobile devices is strongly on the increase. Giving away free laptops as an incentive make customers sign up for long-term contracts is therefore a golden opportunity to tap into a new market and make up for the shrinking revenue from the almost saturated mobile phone
Shaun Collins, managing director of technology analysis company CCS Insight, commented: "Mobile broadband serves our increasing hunger for connectivity. It means you can be connected all the time. That's why it will be enormous. The mobile broadband market will be a battleground for mobile operators across Europe."
"How often do you change your laptop now?" he added. "Probably never. But if they were free every two years? It would encourage people to think of laptops like mobiles. Laptop prices are also falling as fast as mobile prices."
Francois Mahieu, device director at Orange UK, confirmed: "Data is for us the key driver. We do hope that bundling mobile broadband with a laptop will drive that. The connected laptop is an absolute key move for us, it brings together this fixed and mobile asset."
According to Ofcom, more than half a million plug-in wireless modems were sold in the first six months of 2008, and IT research group Gartner expects worldwide sales to grow from 15.8 million this year to 51.1 million in 2012.
Due to the boom in mobile data services it is expected that revenue will rise to more than £108billion worldwide this year, but investing into mobile broadband would also enable mobile phone companies
to gain a solid foothold in the growing entertainment market including music and video downloads.
"Operators need to sell subscriptions," said Carolina Milanesi, head of mobile research at Gartner. "So if they can have you as a subscriber for your phone as well as for your personal computer, they get you twice."
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