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Microsoft announces first mobile carriers to support Always Connected PCs

The push behind the Always Connected PC vision has been ramping up in recent weeks, with manufacturers like HP, ASUS, and Lenovo all joining the fray with their own LTE PCs based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. Now, Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced the first batch of mobile operators that will actively support Always Connected PCs around the world. These initial carriers will help to bring "easy and affordable connectivity plans to consumers on advanced LTE wireless networks," Microsoft and Qualcomm said in a press release.

Throughout the first half of 2018 and beyond, the companies say, mobile operators in China, Italy, the UK, and the U.S. will officially support Always Connected PCs. Here's a look at the carriers you can expect to roll out support in each region:

  • China – China Telecom
  • Italy – TIM (Telecom Italia)
  • U.K. – EE
  • U.S. – Sprint, Verizon

In addition to supporting connected PCs on their LTE networks, you can expect each operator to stock Always Connected PCs in their retail store, Qualcomm and Microsoft say.

In early December, Microsoft and its hardware partners revealed the first entries in the Always Connected PC category. Powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835, the PCs, like the HP Envy x2 and ASUS NovaGo offer exceptional battery life, instant-on, and a persistent LTE connection. At CES 2018, Lenovo jumped into the fray with its own entry, the Miix 630.

Expect some of the above carriers to stock Always Connected devices throughout 2018, in addition to direct sales from the manufacturers themselves and Microsoft.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

109 Comments
  • Well, no AT&T support? Guess that isn't very useful in the US then.
  • Some would say that AT&T isn't very useful in the US either. :P
  • Um... A lot of people "like myself"  are essentially STUCK using Verizon in the US...  If you travel or work outside of larger cities, ATT service is non-existent or horrible 3rd party carrier with limited speeds. Take Interstate 80, the big highway that connects the West Coast to the East coast...  Verizon covers nearly 100% - and ATT barely cover 60%. One of my companies operates in a city that has NO ATT coverage, and two of family members live in areas that have NO ATT coverage. Even when going outside of citites like Reno or Las Vegas or San Diego or Eugene - just to name a few random places in the past year.  ATT works great until you are in the outskirts of the towns. It wasn't until recently that ATT even worked at several major Airports, and still doesn't in some. I say this as someone that doesn't really like Verizon ATT is NOT the US, and when it comes to 'coverage' Verizon is #1 with TMobile catching up to them.
  • Verizon is getting a lot of profits from this (mostly) myth. I hope you aren't saying that TMobile has better coverage than AT&T.
  • Sir, that is a feature for AT&T, not an issue.
  • Not surprised AT&T isn't on the list.  But then, doesn't matter to me since my phone has hotspot capability, which already works perfectly with my Surface Pro.
  • Yeah, but that doesn't equate to a device that is always connected... One of the biggest features of WOA.
  • My Surface practically feels like it's always connected, instant on from sleep, resume where I left off.
  • LTE?
  • Where would you go to do PC work that doesn't have WiFi already? Libraries, schools, coffee shops, airports, hotels, home and work all have great WiFi these days. I travel regularly and rarely find the need for LTE in my Surfacebook. In those rare case I can simply click the quick setting on my Android phone and done. LTE Surface.
  • To answer your "just to challenge, and disagree with everything because you have daddy issues" question...
    First of all, SECURITY. SMDH
    I work at the airport, and heavily depend on the 100+ wifi networks we have here.... But, when logging onto my personal accounts public networks are unacceptable.
    Second, reliability. If you travel as much as you say you do (and I seriously doubt you do, because if you did we wouldn't be having this conversation) you would know that those networks are NOWHERE NEAR as reliable as a private LTE connection. Really?
    1. They are either broken
    2. They are slow, and out of date
    3. Maintenance is being performed on them.
    Man, give us a break. How would you know anything I'm taking about if you're still stuck on the k connection in your moms basement. Please. You're on a technology driven site, and you're asking why should people not use newer technologies that are more streamlined, reliable, secure, and convenient.
    But, your argument is "Just use McDonald's wifi"...... You had way too many Happy Meals in 2017, dude. Damn, man. I'm sick of your BS.
  • My phone has LTE. Thus, my Surface Pro has LTE. 'nuff said.
  • Just like my iphone has LTE so my Dell 2 in 1 has LTE!  nuff said.
  • And syncing all apps and email while the Surface is in standby? Not really... not to mention that the standby times of the Surface Pro line outside of hibernation is very low. So your feelings are betraying you :)
  • Surface has apps? I haven't found any after several years. Just legacy programs that don't take advantage of the touchscreen or tablet features and certainly don't take advantage of "always connected". Not sure what the advantage of "always connected" is on a PC. Now Windows can download updates while the screen is closed? Why do I care if my computer is syncing while off? Turning it on, opening the browser and surfing to Facebook is the same either way.
  • I'm so glad I don't spend as much of my life ******** and moaning as you do.  Why do you even own MS products with as much as you hate them?  Why do you come here if hate everything you read here?  Really...just buy Apple/Android stuff and go haunt their sites and maybe you'll be a happier person (I know most of us would be). BTW:  my questions are rhetorical.  I don't care about your answers. MobileNations:  please create the ability for readers to filter out comments by user name.
  • I'm surprised that you weren't able to find the many apps that are available in the Microsoft Store, the best of which are UWP apps that run on your Windows 10 PC / phone / XBox / HoloLens.
  • VMWare is not in the Store, Virtual Box is not in the Store, Eclipse is not in the Store, Putty is not in the Store, Chrome/Opera/Firefox are not in the Store, Netbeans is not in the Store, LibreOffice is not in the Store, Adobe suite is not in the Store, ... 99.9% of the software, let me guess, oh, not in the Store. Buying an always connected laptop just for reviewing Facebook, Twitter, c'mon, this is as nonsensical as buying an iPad Pro instead of a PC. That's my thinking, I can live with my cell sharing the internet while traveling by whatever the mean.
  • Surface has a mail app which could sure use some of that always connected love. I'd get an always connected PC just for the privilege of receiving and syncing mail just like a smartphone. No, hotspot is not an acceptable solution. Why are you asking me to take compromises when the no-compromise device for my needs is here? 
  • I can't think of a single benefit that I'd be missing out on.  I can connect exactly when I want to, with NO added costs.
  • Well the scubadog,  DONT ******* BUY ONE!
  • Really?? CDMA carriers in the US!! All those years I was on Verizon, all the good Nokia phones were GSM. Now I'm on T-Mobile...they choose CDMA. Just figures. I know...these are just the first but...geez! Edit - Also, don't trust any product that requires coperation between Microsoft & Verizon.  I swear it's like Charlie Brown and the football with those two!
  • They didn't necessarily 'choose' them.  It could just be that certain carriers are hesitant to jump on yet or they are only testing on a smaller set before going big.  Who knows.  I totally agree about Verizon lol.
  • Well, AT&T does like their little SIMs.
  • I don't think GSM or CDMA have anything to do with this since it is LTE?
  • LTE is neither CDMA nor GSM. i don't know if t-mobile actively restricts network usage to whitelisted devices. but if not, just popping in the sim should do the trick. since LTE is a standard that all carriers adhere to, this whole "official support" thing seems little more than marketing speak.
  • They didn't choose, CDMA, these devices are LTE only, legacy CDMA won't be used.
  • Long Term Evolution (LTE) is it's own channel access method that both GSM (AT&T, T-Mo) and CDMA (Sprint, Verizon) channel access methods are evolving to.  Frequency bands probably won't be too dissimilar from LTE on Sprint or Verizon, it's the way the cell phone and the tower handshake/connect and allow users to access the network.
  • Agreed, Verizon's idea of an always connected pc is an Android phone/tablet and iPads, I don't personally expect to see any windows devices.
  • I realize that CDMA relates to the legacy voice and 3G/2G data. I guess I am most surprised by the carriers. Sprint never showed an oz of support for msft & VZW and msft are like oil and water.
    Hopefully some of these devices have SIM slots. I know msft is pushing eSIM with the ACPC's. If there is no SIM slot carrier support may be crucial.
    Also, I wonder how T-Mobile's "Digits" initiative will play with the ACPC. If you're not familiar with "Digits", have a look. I love it. Just wish they had a UWP in the store.
  • No GSM support?  What year is this again?  Then again, let's not pretend we didn't complain (a lot) about how AT&T treated Windows phones... or how Sprint treated Windows phones... or how Verizon... ya'll get the point.  Hopefully, people can still get unofficial support through GSM carriers since it's LTE.
  • AT&T was great with windows phones, verizon failed altogether with them.
    I left verizon because I couldnt get a windows phone.  I stuck with at&t because they supported them.  It is a little odd to see them go with CDMA over gsm 
  • ARM holdings and Sprint are both owned by Softbank.... I think that's why the preference for CDMA.
  • AT&T were far from great. I only need to mention one phone, the Lumia 1520 which didn't have out the box wireless charge because of AT&T refusing to use Chi going for the Duracell format. There were plenty of cases where they screwed over the platform to favour the other big players in the market making it an even harsher uphill climb for WP.
  • The lack of newer Windows phones on Verizon Wireless, Sprint & US Cellular was really Microsoft's decision. Microsoft never bothered to submit the Lumia 550, 650, 950 and 950XL for certification on any of the three CDMA carriers. Daniel Rubino noted a while back that Microsoft, as a part of its retrenchment strategy, gutted its group of CDMA coders with the intent of limiting new devices to GSM carriers. HP pushed Microsoft to produce firmware that it could submit to Verizon Wireless so that the Elite X3 could be brought onto Verizon Wireless....thus....the X3 is now available...more than a year and a half too late sadly...for Verizon Wireless customers to purchase.
  • AT&T will start testing their 5G network in the 2nd half of 2018.  It won't be long before you can use your ACPC on their 5G network.
  • If you consider 2022 not long, then yeah sure.
  • It's the year 2018, carrier support should be universal. If I want to put my Mintsim in this thing it should work.
  • The issue isn't technical. "Business decisions".
  • Yep. If MS just added a sim slot to the required spec for these things then we could put in any sim we want from any company we want. Unfortunately they've chosen this eSim thing which practically no-one supports. Lovely. Sure, support eSim, but please just support regular sim cards as well. The future might be grand, but we all have to live in the present I'm afraid. MS need to cotton on to that fact.
  • The devices have both a Sim slot and eSim. The tray for the memory card also has a sim tray. 
  • Oh well then, no fuss. We can all insert any sim we want so no issues. This feature needs to be more heavily publicised.
  • no tmobile! are you kidding me..
  • Not yet. Don't panic..... This is really good news, considering Andromeda is an always connected PC.. If, and when, at&t supports this, we should be able to package new Surface devices with our current plans.
    ...........
    For all we know, AT&T might be working with MS (as we've seen before with MS and Lumia devices), and waiting for the unveiling of this Andromeda device to announce their support. You never know. This might be the case.
  • These are gen 1 devices. Gen 2 with 845 chipset will be the explosion of the always connected PC.
  • explosion of what?? who the F will buy these overpriced devices?? keep dreaming.
  • The reason why they are expensive is because of hardware used, like quality screen, touch, pen etc.
  • They have to bring down the cost quite urgently though, because once they try to make pocketable devices like the Surface not-Phone, no-one will be able to use one without an immediate mugging. So, no sales there if they start charging crazy money. Costs for this tech need to come down before they even try to market pocketable devices.
  • "[...] like quality screen, touch, [...]" It is a shame that the quality of the OS (WoA) is arguable.
  • There is still lot of ambiguity. So, like phones, if I buy from amazon, or hp and MS directly, will I get an unlocked version? And until MS starts selling data plans, will I be able to swap in a regular nano-sim on devices that support nano-sim and use data from it, you know, just like a smartphone?  
  • They definitely should: TIM is an Italian provider and there all devices have to be unlocked by law. Even if you buy a smartphone in a TIM store you can use it with any provider.
  • Locking is pointless, as it just means we all have to pay £10 to the local phone shop to get it unlocked. I'm more concerned about branding, because branding the OS is going to be a real pain. I've had enough trouble with Lenovo and their root kit shenanigans. I expect there will be a signature edition available from the manufacturer.
  • Oh yeah! something like signature ediion is a must. Carrier branding should not be there on device, I agree.
  • Wondering if it will work with TIM Brasil...
  • no T-Mobile? not good.
  • Agreed
  • ?? TMobile is a trainwreck.  I had it for a few days in a major, full coverage city in the US and it worked absolutely terribly.
  • Technically so is Sprint. Verizon is good for business at least and they have good LTE coverage.
  • Question.. Can you install windows 10 on the 950xl since it works with snapdragon?
  • jeez...you fanboys are more dumb than I've thought.
  • Win10 comes pre-installed on the 950XL (which I am using at this moment), but it is the mobile variant of the OS, not the full version.  Hopefully the long-rumored Surface Phone will run full Win10 with desktop applications via C-Shell.
  • Well, that partially answers my question from yesterday.
  • Here's what I'd like to see: HP take the X3 and update it with X2 parts, then sell it on both Verizon and GSM.
  • I'm confused, why does a carrier "actively" have to support a device? Can't you just get a second Sim for your existing phone/data contract?
  • I thought these devices all used E-Sim?
  • its my guess as well is e-sim and in that case the carrier have to support e-sim, and i hopes is e-sim even if the world bigest carrier dosent support in large area, Sweden Telia dosent support it as well and exist in many countrys. But e-sim device should speed up the market to support it, and with e-sim no need to change cards and you can also share the LTE data between the phone and the pc.  But you cold also share you phone LTE connectivty as well and just ask the PC to take it over Wi-Fi, make a Wi-Fi Hotspot. 
  • Holy crap, Verizon trusts MS again???  damn.
  • I hope WoA devices have support for almost all LTE Bands, so we can just roam wherever and buy the relevant data plans when needed as opposed to being locked to a specific carrier.
  • I don't expect any proactive support by Verizon.
  • What a stupid move. Instead of selling these devices through normal retail channels like other Pc's and allowing people to add connectivity as they want they restrict it to a few carriers at the whim of the inevitable iPad loving manager who may or may not decide to give these devices floor space. Who wants to bet these devices will be stuffed in the back room just like Windows Phones? Dummies.
  • Restriction to carriers is never mentioned...not sure where you got this from. The news here is most likely related to eSIM support. You still have the option to put any physical SIM card into these ACPCs. Maybe Windows Central can reach out to Microsoft or Qualcomm and ask what precisely "support" means.
  • I second this.  This looks like it could be related to eSIM functionality.
  • By the way you guys in the US should really really start fighting against carrier lock and exclusives. Not being able to buy any phone and use it with any carrier is just plain stupid.
  • We just lost net neutrality, so we're not holding our breath for other consumer friendly regulations.
  • I feel so sorry for the US consumers. How did you get in this position? I can buy any phone in Australia, slip in a sim card and the thing just works. I can move between carriers, take my phone number and adset and all that changes is my bill. What on earth have you yanks been sucked in to?
  • 7th, 19th, 26th, 32nd largest carriers, and one not even on the list. Good one Microsoft.
  • Did you just compare carriers from different countries? Do you even?
  • There are 2.5 billion subscribers in the 6 carriers larger than China Telecom (the biggest on Microsoft's pathetic excuse for a list).
  • good luck selling overpriced devices with a junk OS...go on fanboys, now's your time to be fed by Nadella's **** spoon again.
  • I agree with with you. Plus they are already alienating millions of people by not supporting on T-Mobile and AT&T.
  • LTE get delivery over e-sim? 
  • Verizon?  After all the crap Verizon has done directly targeting Microsoft? Its official, cats are now dogs and dogs are now cats.
  • why EE in the uk... all the networks run the same but EE are so freeking expensive! typical!!
  • Just go through Virgin or some other company that uses the EE network. You don't actually have to have an EE contract, I'm sure. There would be no need.
  • No T-Mobile issa no for me
  • No T-Mobile? *Heads to Twitter to start ranting*
  • for my country has no problem, just buy any carrier simcard put in and good to go...:)
  • Something Microsoft should have done with the Surface from the beginning. In Europe, manufacturers such as Asus, Lenovo and Samsung have been selling tablets/laptop hybrids with LTE for some time now. 
  • As always, releasing a half ass product
  • I'm surprised RoBeLus (Canadian carriers Rogers, Bell, TELUS) hasn't jumped on board with this. Recently Rogers announced support for eSim.  Should be interesting to see the product launches north of the border. 
  • LOL. Look how many fools are buying this ridiculous 'always on' as if it's something new. This is a scam to get you to pay more for a product and then more for mobile data plan. HAHA. And it's 'useless' in vast areas outside the major cities. 'Always on'....a new name for an old technology...they can scam you with.
  • I don't get it.  Why do they need to "officially  support always on PC's"?  Isn't it as simple as putting a sim card in the pc, just like a phone? 
  • Notice also NO Canadian telcoms listed. They are to greedy
  • Somehow, this is the same mistake that occurred with the Lumia 950 and 950XL: Lack of US Carrier support. 
    Microsoft....don't make the same mistake again. GSM and LTE universal support are a must here for this to work.
  • CES gets quite a push here in Australia but absolutely none, zero, zilch about always on PCs. The big news story from CES here is how you can use your smartphone to manage your household stuff. Yet another case of MS missing the boat on its smartphone policy. Nadella MUST GO because his smartphone policy is locking him out of this trendy new stuff. Why, oh why, has MS persisted with cutting its own throat?
  • I see a lot of comments about "Support" and this needs clarification.  Support is a very wishy-washy term in regards to this article. Support is relating to the 5G "Always Connected" support, which includes eSIM Support and other new technology support that Qualcomm and Microsoft have been working on.    The devices with standard SIM cards will support any carrier with 4G LTE SIMs available within the supported Frequencies of the devices.  This will work the same as the current batch of devices that are SIM/Mobile Data enabled.   "Always Connected" refers to the functionality of being connected, even when the device is sleeping, like Mobile Phones currently have the ability to do.  This function may or may not be available via standard SIM and is definitely not available via WiFi.  This does not mean the device is not data enabled when awake, it just means it may not have the full "Always Connected" functionality. It would be nice if, before writing an article, the terms of what "Support" mean are clarified and clearly communicated.
  • Can someone tell me the difference between these WoA "Always connected PCs" and already on the market for lots of years LTE laptops and tablets (like the Surface Pro LTE)? What's the big deal?
  • Always Connected PCs will have much longer battery life. They will be on all of the time communicating with the Internet like smartphones.
  • "They will be on all of the time communicating with the Internet like smartphones" - so exactly just like LTE devices that are currently on the market?
  • Did you totally ignore the part where he said battery life would be much better?
  • I still find this way of doing things strange and unfriendly for customers. Here in Norway I can buy whatever device, and use it with witch ever carrier I want. And if I like, I can also just switch from one to another. I can get good deals on devices locked to carriers, but after one or two years etc. depending on the lenght of the contract I can just unlock the device.  
  • To maximize US sales they have to get AT&T and T-Mobile on board too. I'm glad Verizon will support Always Connected PCs. I will hold my breath to find out how much Verizon will charge to use Always Connected PCs on their network. Hopefully the monthly charges will be reasonable.
  • Where I live Sprint is practically non existent and Verizon is available but I do not want Verizon.  Only the major cities are served by about all the carriers so it is no problem but for the rest of us, oh well we don't matter.  
  • What kind of data plans are going to be out there. I pay $85 for 6gb of data A MONTH!!!! Always connected - I am going to burn through that quickly..... Does anyone have an unlimited data plan for a mobile device?  One that is not throttled? No, I am really asking...   Thanks, Mr. V
  • When's my T-mobile coming :)
  • Wen in India? 😂😂😂😂
  • What a hype. Any Mobile Carrier supports this if they offer LTE. Why should you buy the device from your carrier? Find the best/cheapest reseller and plug the SIM from most any mobile carrier and you should be fine to go. However, what's more important for vendors is to produce PHONES/Hand helds running Windows to support Allways On.
  • What kind of data plan are you going to need?
    Do US carriers have unlimited data plans?
    How much?
    Thanks,
    mr. V
  • Microsoft is behind the curve again, all these efforts and work on windows on arm are jeopardised by the use of a snapdragon that's going to be replaced in months, just when availability of Qualcomm powered windows devices are launching.