The Dell MVNO

Dell Computer is in a tough spot. As better wireless networks are built out, traditional desktop sales are faltering and losing ground to laptops, netbooks and even smartphones. The latest idea the computer-maker has to capitalize on the dawn of ubiquitous wireless broadband is forming an MVNO, according to reports.

The idea is to “offer notebooks with bundled HSPA access and call plans,” said Caroline Gabriel, analyst at Rethink Research. “In this new strand of the MVNO model, the network owner provides a connection and reaps a fee, usually based on data usage, but remains invisible to the end user – with the twist on traditional MVNOs being that the brand belongs to the device.”

An example of this would be the Amazon Kindle eReader: signed up as an MVNO in order to provide an integrated ability in the device to do wireless book downloads. End users don’t see an incremental charge for the network; Amazon pays the carrier out of the revenue from book downloads.

Sprint-Nextel Corp. has said that it is looking for similar relationships among gadget-makers interested in providing embedded 3G – something that could supercharge digital picture frames, portable gaming devices and more.

Of course, notebooks are a far cry from single-purpose devices that can monetize MVNO data usage via download subscriptions or even pay-as-you-go downloads. Gabriel notes that the Dell MVNO-ready laptops will have built-in HSPA cards, be priced between $500 and $2,000, and will ship with fixed amount of mobile broadband access that customers can replenish with a credit card.

Dell’s MVNO will reportedly launch in Japan on the NTT DoCoMo network, and will expand to other countries from there.

Dell also has been eyeing the smartphone market, but hasn’t been able to get to market with an offering yet.

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