The big winner from Google Chrome OS: Telcos

The Google OS could boost demand for 3G/4G netbooks

The coming Google Chrome Web-centric operating system could be a big boon for telecom vendors and wireless operators looking for another way to drive demand.

For one, Google Chrome-based netbooks, when they start to ship in the second half of 2010, are likely to come with fast wireless WAN capabilities that top today's standard, Wi-Fi, in ubiquity.

Most netbooks and laptops today come only with Wi-Fi connectivity. That's mostly due to cost. According to Philip Solis, an analyst with ABI Research, a Wi-Fi chip costs $US3 to $US4 on average, going up to $US5 to $US7 for Wi-Fi 802.11n chips, which enable real-world speeds of more than 100Mbit/sec.

Meanwhile, mini-cards offering 3G and 4G wireless WAN connectivity add between $US50 to $US150 to the price of a netbook, according to Solis.

Wireless WAN technologies offer the same range and near-ubiquitous coverage as cell phones. Today, they include 3G technologies such as HSDPA, offered by AT&T Wireless and running between 400Kbit/sec. to 700Kbit/sec. to Verizon Wireless' EVDO, with similar speeds.

With some exceptions, few telcos are offering 3G netbook discount bundles today because they fear they won't make their money back, as consumers will either use Wi-Fi most of the time, or worse, will run local apps without wireless connectivity.

By aiming at "people who spend most of their time on the web," Google Chrome-based netbooks will be much more appealing to customers if they come with 3G or even 4G connectivity, Solis said.

That would be a boon for telecom vendors such as Qualcomm, Taiwan's Foxconn, Ericsson and Nokia, which are all making 3G and 4G wireless chips and mini-cards, Solis said.

4G technologies such as WiMax are being rolled out by Clearwire Corp and Sprint Nextel. WiMax can deliver real-world download speeds of 3Mbit/sec. to 5Mbit/sec. Wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon expect an alternative wireless technology Long Term Evolution (LTE) to rival speeds of WiMax.

It will also provide a powerful incentive to carriers to subsidize 3G and 4G netbooks, said Jack Gold, an independent analyst.

Carriers are poised to roll out 4G networks by the time Chrome netbooks hit the market late next year. Solis cited WiMax rollouts in the U.S. by Sprint, as well as Japan and South Korea. Verizon Wireless is also debuting LTE this year in the U.S. and expects to have it in 25 to 30 cities in the U.S. in 2010.

The other advantage of Chrome from the perspective of carriers and manufacturers is how easy it will be to add wireless WAN connectivity to a Chrome netbook.

"With a netbook, I'm simply adding a 3G/4G hardware module," Gold said, which simply requires the right driver for Chrome and its Linux kernel.

For smartphones running Google's Android OS or Nokia's Symbian, programmers may need to rewrite the OS at a deep level to make 3G or 4G work with every particular phone model, he said.

The net result is manufacturers should be able to bring Chrome netbooks to market in three to six months, compared with the two years typical for a smartphone, Gold said.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google Chrome OS

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?