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Lenovo offers no-contract mobile broadband for ThinkPads

Company's new Lenovo Mobile Access will let users hop onto 3G networks and pay for as little as 30 minutes of time at a stretch.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Lenovo ThinkPad users who need 3G access can now get it without having to cough up money for a lengthy contract.

Available starting today, Lenovo Mobile Access is a service built into select ThinkPad Classic and ThinkPad Edge laptops for customers in the U.S. and parts of Europe. The service is geared for customers who may need mobile broadband access from time to time but don't want to be saddled with expensive monthly fees.

Lenovo ThinkPad owners can buy a "Time Pass" costing just $1.95 for 30 minutes of access allowing 30MB of data, or $8.95 for a full day allowing 200MB of data. Users who need more time can choose contract-free monthly plans that provide 2GB of data for $44.95 or or 6GB for $79.95.

Other monthly plans are available that offer 200MB, 2GB, or 6GB of data with an option to automatically renew each month. Lenovo expects most people will use the 30-minute or 1-day plans the majority of the time.

A Lenovo spokesman told CNET that all new WWAN-enabled ThinkPad Classic and ThinkPad Edge models equipped with a WAN module will ship with Lenovo Mobile Access as the default configuration. Those include the L Series (L430 and L530), X Series (X230 and X3230T), T Series (T430 and T430s), and the W Series (W530).

The mobile service itself is offered through Lenovo by Macheen, a company that works with device makers and network operators to provide mobile broadband access.

Geared toward business users and individuals alike, Lenovo Mobile Access is available in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The service isn't necessarily intended to take the place of existing mobile broadband plans, the Lenovo spokesman told CNET, but instead provide a complementary choice for mobile users.

"Lenovo Mobile Access is not necessarily intended to be a replacement for users who have mobile broadband plans through traditional carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, etc., nor is it a replacement for Wi-Fi hot spots," the rep explained.

"Lenovo Mobile Access is the way to fill the gaps, so to speak," he added. "There are a lot of people who don't have traditional mobile broadband and there are many instances when you need to get online but aren't near a Wi-Fi hot spot. That's where LMA will primarily come into play, when all those currently disconnected devices/users need to have relatively short-term access while traveling, etc. and a traditional mobile broadband plan is simply overkill."

Updated at 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. PT with list of specific models that include Lenovo Mobile Access and with more details from Lenovo.