New devices allow for mobile wireless broadband

Motorola Mobility Inc.’s Xoom tablet will have a 10.1-inch screen and two cameras.

This year, the big national wireless carriers will be racing to stake their claims in the latest frontier of service: ultra-fast data access through a cellular connection for smart phones and laptops, as well as for gadgets like tablet computers.

The companies are boosting their mobile wireless broadband speeds and revving up the marketing hype. They’re moving away from talking about call quality and coverage, and focusing instead on data speeds: megabits in place of minutes.

For consumers, there are benefits in the form of faster service and cooler gadgets. Yet some of the marketing campaigns seem designed to confuse consumers about the gadgets’ speed.

For education, the new high-speed mobile wireless broadband services could mean always-available broadband access, fast enough to allow for video streaming even outside the range of a Wi-Fi network—enabling true anytime, anywhere learning. But these benefits can be realized only by paying for a cellular data plan, which could prove costly for schools.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, Verizon Wireless revealed the 10 gadgets with built-in access to its new high-speed 4G wireless data network, including smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Some are to launch as early as March.

Along with Sprint Nextel Corp.’s subsidiary Clearwire Corp., Verizon is at the forefront of the move to a new network technology, designed to relay data rather than calls. Verizon’s fourth-generation, or “4G,” network went live for laptop modems in the last month.

The new mobile wireless broadband network is the nation’s fastest. Verizon is hoping to cash in on that advantage by selling tablets and smart phones that devour data.

One of the devices, Motorola Mobility Inc.’s Xoom tablet, will come with a 10.1-inch screen and two cameras: one for video chatting, the other for high-definition videos. The Xoom will begin selling by March. Initially, it will work with Verizon’s 3G network but will be upgradeable to work on the speedier 4G wireless network.

Motorola’s Droid Bionic smart phone also will have two cameras, to help with video conferencing, a data-hungry task. It will be one of the first phones with a so-called “dual-core processor” that will roughly double its computing capacity. That should help with video processing.

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