San Diego (CA) – This morning, Novatel Wireless confirmed what Engadget was making clear to be about the worst kept secret since Katie Couric’s move to CBS: It’s now producing “pre-commercial samples” of wireless broadband cards in the emerging ExpressCard form factor, for both EV-DO and HSDPA standards. On the one hand, the wireless broadband field is expanding very rapidly; on the other, with news this momentous and yet not at all under wraps, one wonders why Novatel didn’t go ahead and announce it during last week’s CTIA Wireless conference.
In its optimum form factor, an ExpressCard is about half the size of a current PC Card, although some models have opted to simply include a wide card with a small plug. Prototypes of the Novatel design seen at CTIA Wireless apparently make full use of the smaller form factor, and will be recognized by existing applications that expect USB or PCI Express form factors. The promise is for Novatel’s design to enable 2.4 Mbps download speed over EV-DO, and 3.6 Mbps over HSDPA, for notebook and even sub-notebook systems currently being manufactured. By going non-commercial with its early renditions – the communications equipment equivalent of a beta – Novatel is apparently enticing system manufacturers to move toward even smaller form factors. This would open up the possibility, as Novatel’s press release explicitly stated, of manufacturers weaning themselves off the existing PC Card standard altogether, in so doing perhaps eliminating some of Novatel’s early competition, at least for the time being.
Availability of these new devices is expected to be extremely limited, and constrained for the time being to notebook system manufacturers and telecom carriers.