Mobile operator Orange is bringing faster wireless data access to owners of the latest laptops, with a new 3G modem card that fits in an ExpressCard slot.

The ExpressCard slot is showing up in newer laptops from companies including Fujitsu Siemens, Dell, HP, Acer and Apple, where it replaces the older PC Card slot.

However, users wanting to buy add-in cards to access 3G networks have faced a problem, as there are few 3G cards on the market in the new ExpressCard form-factor.

Orange expects to start selling its ExpressCard, made by Novatel Wireless, to customers in France in December. The operator will offer it in the UK and other markets in 2007.

The card will operate on 3G (third generation) mobile networks, and take advantage of the higher data rate of HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology where available. Orange has upgraded its networks to use HSDPA in Spain, Belgium, Slovakia and France, with plans to introduce the service in the UK, Switzerland, Poland and Romania next year.

In August, Verizon Wireless became one of the first operators to start selling ExpressCards for 3G access. Verizon's card, also made by Novatel, works on its high-speed CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimised) network. Dell also sells an ExpressCard for EV-DO networks.

ExpressCards are about half the size of a PC Card, and communicate faster with the computer than do PC Cards. HP began selling notebooks with ExpressCard slots in November 2004 and others started using the new standard last year.

A number of laptop makers and operators have also announced efforts to embed 3G cards into the computers. Dell, Lenovo, Acer and Fujitsu-Siemens are among those that have announced or started selling laptops with built-in 3G capabilities.

Orange did not reveal pricing for the card.