Free laptops to spark mobile broadband growth

3G Dongle

Users looking to save money and defer the cost of technology gifts this Christmas are driving massive sales of mobile broadband contracts that are bundled with a free laptop or netbook.

Rating site Top 10 Broadband said the free laptop bundles accounted for just 4 per cent of sales through its comparison website in July. That figure has now surged to 27 per cent of its mobile broadband sales.

Jessica McArdle, a spokeswoman for the website, suggested that laptop bundles would overtake standalone mobile broadband sales by the end of the year.

"With broadband and free laptop deals starting at 25 a month, laptops have never been so affordable or attractive to users looking to curb their spending in the run up to credit crunch Christmas," she added.

Mobile operators and retailers like 3, Vodafone, Carphone Warehouse and PC World are offering free laptops or netbooks when signing up to mobile broadband contracts, usually for 18 or 24 months.

Many parents of school and college students are taking advantage of these new deals, seeing them as a cost-effective way of equipping their children with a new PC to support their academic development, according to feedback on Top 10 Broadband.

In the same way that networks bundle a phone with a voice plan, recovering the subsidy over the life of the contract in the form of a higher monthly line rental, bundling a laptop with a dongle is effectively just deferring the cost of the compute over the life of the contract, but without the customer taking on a normal credit agreement.

The shift from dongle-only to bundled laptop offers has seen manufacturers such as Acer, who supply the laptops to T-Mobile and the Carphone Warehouse struggle to meet demand.

"Since launching laptop-broadband deals on, we have seen significant sales growth month-on-month and predict that laptop-broadband deals will be top-sellers this Christmas," stated a Phones 4U spokesman.

The growth in laptop bundle sales have also contributed to a surge in the numbers of laptops shipped in the region this quarter, according to the latest Gartner and IDC figures.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.