Cingular PC Card enables worldwide mobile Net access

Cingular will start selling a PC Card that can be used for wireless data access around the world.

Cingular Wireless said on Monday that it will soon offer customers a single PC Card that can be used to wirelessly access the Internet in the U.S. as well as around the world. Typically, operators that enable global wireless data roaming require users to have multiple PC Cards that operate in different parts of the world.

Cingular will start offering the cards and two subscription plans in March. One plan will cost US$110 per month and includes unlimited data use in the U.S. and 100MB of downloads in Canada and Mexico. The other plan will cost users US$140 and will include unlimited use in the U.S. and 100MB of downloads in 24 countries including Australia, China, France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Japan. Cingular said it plans to add other locations in the future.

The card will cost US$100 for customers who sign up to subscription plans.

The highest speed network the card can connect to is HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), which so far is mainly available in the U.S., but operators in Europe and elsewhere plan to introduce such networks this year. Where HSDPA networks aren't available, customers can use UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) or GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks. The card is also compatible with Wi-Fi networks.

The card has a retractable antenna, which Cingular says means users won't have to remove the card when transporting their laptops.

In September, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group PLC started up a new service that lets customers use wireless Internet in more than 50 countries, but requires customers to use two different PC Cards. The cards do not support Wi-Fi and cost as much as US$380 and US$230 each.

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