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AT&T adds more Netbooks with data plans

AT&T is extended its offering of Netbooks with data plans for mobile broadband. This is part of the trend of telecommunications companies becoming a new sales channel for computers.

AT&T has expanded its range of Netbooks with built-in 3G for mobile broadband. The computers sell at $199.99 with a two-year data plan and after a mail-in rebate.

Acer Aspire One
AT&T has added the Acer Aspire One to its line of Netbooks that come with a data plan. Acer

The new Netbooks are the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 10, and Lenovo S10. All weigh less than 2.9 pounds and have 1GB of memory, 160GB of storage, Microsoft Windows XP Home, and a built-in Webcam.

Previously, AT&T offered the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9 and Mini 12, and LG Xenia in Atlanta and Philadelphia. The new lineup will be available in stores nationwide and online in the "coming days," according to the company (we're checking with AT&T to see whether the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 and Mini 12 and LG Xenia are also going national).

Most people purchase their PCs from electronics stores or directly from manufacturers, but telecommunications companies have become a significant new sales channel.

Verizon offers the HP Mini 1151NR Netbook at $199.99, and in the beginning of July Sprint teamed with Best Buy to sell the Compaq Mini 110c-1040DX Netbook for 99 cents, both with a two-year service contract.

The required data plan is the big difference in buying from a telco vs. a retailer.

AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all charge $60 a month for a 5GB plan, resulting in $1,440 for a two-year contract.

AT&T and Verizon also offer a $40 plan of 200MB and 250MB respectively, which would only be a choice for very lightweight users who mostly use e-mail and occasionally surf the Web, but definitely avoid streaming audio and video.

The limit in data volume only applies when connected to 3G networks, not when using Wi-Fi--AT&T gives its customers free access to its more than 20,000 hot spots nationwide.

For customers canceling the two-year contract after the first 30 days of service, AT&T will apply an early termination fee of up to $175 .