Integrated 3G to overtake external modems by 2012

Will flexible data contracts like Apple have negotiated for the iPad – and Spring Design are planning for their Alex ereader – drive adoption of integrated 3G/4G data connections rather than external modems?  That's certainly one interpretation of DigiTime's latest statistics; they're quoting industry sources who reckon global sales of built-in 3G modules will exceed sales of external data cards by 2012.

Key players in the segment are Qualcomm, whose dual-mode Gobi chipset – which can be used as a GSM/HSPA modem or a CDMA/EVDO one – has been finding its way into an increasing number of ultraportable devices as manufacturers look to satisfy multiple markets with a single component, and Ericsson, who have apparently been pushing adoption of their modules in embedded devices like ereaders and MIDs.  So far the major downside to having integrated cellular wireless connectivity has been the ensuing data tariff, which can cost $60 on a typical laptop with a two-year agreement, something owners have been reluctant to sign up to since they often also have similar bills for their regular cellphone.