Subsidizing Laptops To Boost Mobile Data Sales
By Carlo Longino, Tue Mar 16 09:15:00 GMT 2004

Carriers subsidizing handsets is nothing new. But Vodafone and Fujitsu Siemens have announced plans to subsidize laptop sales to make mobile data more attractive to small- and medium-sized businesses.

The operator and computer maker are teaming up for the connect2air program, where customers sign a two-year service contract with Vodafone, then get a laptop for GBP 99 up front. Vodafone's monthly charges start at GBP 89 per month for up to 10 megabytes of data, bringing the total cost over the two years to GBP 2,235 -- quite a premium over the laptop's GBP 1,139 price, but substantial savings on the mobile data fees.

Fujitsu Siemens says it came up with the plan to boost sales at small companies, for whom upfront costs are a significant barrier to mobilizing their businesses. With the program, they can avoid having to pay large initial costs to equip their employees with laptops.

Handset subsidies have been a significant force in the mobile market, with phone vendors dependent on them to drive consumer sales, and carriers using them as a key selling point to new customers. Many corporate users already have work-issued laptops, making this new program slightly redundant, but it could also be very attractive to small firms.