Why pay for five mobile data cards when one will do? A new device launched Monday in Spain by Vodafone Group, Europe's largest mobile phone operator, allows up to five people to share one card.
Users connect to the device, the 3G/UMTS Router, via the WLAN (wireless LAN) capability built into their notebook computers, or a Wi-Fi card. The device contains a slot for the Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card, which, in turn, allows for access to the company's 3G (third-generation) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) high-speed cellular networks.
"The new product is designed to help companies connect a group of employees at a trade show or building site with one card instead of having to invest in individual cards," said Vodafone spokeswoman Janine Young. "It's a cost-efficient service targeted primarily at smaller companies."
Vodafone Mobile Connect cards cost around Euro 199 (US$162) and up, depending on the service package, according to Young.
The 3G/UMTS routers with data card run from Euro 199 to Euro 349, with the lower-priced model requiring a higher-priced service package, she said.
The new router, which was developed by Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, combines the Linksys WRT54G3G Wireless-G Router for WLAN connectivity with the Vodafone data card.
Besides providing group access to high-speed cellular networks for e-mail and Web surfing services, the 3G/UMTS Router allows additional devices, such as printers to be connected using Ethernet or 802.11g wireless connections.
Wireless network access is secured through Wi-Fi Protected Access and SPI (Stateful Packet Protection) firewall protection.
The product will be available in several other European markets as well as Africa and New Zealand over the coming weeks, Vodafone said.