T-Mobile USA is opening up its new cellular broadband network to laptops for the first time, with Wednesday’s launch of a USB ”dongle” that lets portable computers get wireless Internet access.
The plug-in device costs $50 with a two-year contract, or $100 if the buyer is signing up for one year. From then, service costs $60 per month for up to 5 gigabytes of traffic.
The prices are similar to those at the three larger cellular carriers. T-Mobile is playing catch-up to Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. when it comes to building out a nationwide third-generation, or ”3G” data network.
T-Mobile inaugurated the network last year for the use of a few phones, most notably the G1 ”Google phone.” The network reached about 100 million people by the end of 2008, and T-Mobile plans for it to cover 200 million by the end of this year, said Jeremy Korst, T-Mobile’s director of broadband products and services.
The USB dongle is made by Huawei Technologies Co., and represents the first order from a national U.S. carrier for this Chinese manufacturer. Huawei has already sold data cards and phones to regional players like MetroPCS Communications Inc.
T-Mobile subscribers using the dongle will get access to the company’s network of 10,000 Wi-Fi hot spots at hotels, airports, and Borders book stores. They will also get free access at Starbucks shops, even though AT&T now operates those hot spots. Wi-Fi downloads are generally faster than 3G, and don’t count toward the monthly traffic limit.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press