HP to become MVNO in Japan?


Hewlett-Packard announced plans to start offering new laptops, netbooks, and touchscreen tablets that will come with an integrated SIM card and communication module. So far, nothing unusual right? Where it gets interesting is that a wireless operator contract will not be required. Instead, customers will use an integrated pay-as-you-go system to buy air time. And they will do so from HP rather than a traditional carrier. Essentially, HP will be acting as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator).

What allows HP to do this is a recent decision by the Japanese government to have wireless operators sell unused bandwidth to new entrants. HP essentially is renting spectrum from a small operator called Japan Communications (JCI) which itself buys bandwidth from DoCoMo.

HP is starting small, probably netbooks selling for up to US$100, and has set a goal of selling tens of thousands of units for now (a minuscule share of its overall unit sales). It will be interesting to watch the reaction of the carriers and whether other hardware manufacturers will follow suit (especially if HP is successful). HP itself could look to extend this to other countries if it does take off.

HP Press release: In Japanese / Google translation

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