Analysts welcome 3's flat-rate broadband

Analysts welcome 3's flat-rate broadband

Summary: Mobile operator's decision to fully embrace flat-fee mobile internet access is widely welcomed, but some doubts remain

TOPICS: Networking

... and pointed out that the actual pricing of this new tariff was as-yet unannounced, saying: "That's what will ultimately determine whether X-Series becomes a mass-market service, or remains confined to the category of 'expensive toys for rich boys'".

A spokesperson for 3 told ZDNet UK on Friday that pricing details would be made available closer to the UK launch date of 1 December (other countries will get the service next year). What is known is that the full service will be priced lower than £18 a month (on top of the user's standard mobile subscription) a figure roughly equivalent to that of entry-level fixed-line broadband.

Asked whether all video-streaming services would necessitate the higher flat fee, the spokesperson said that tariff would be reserved for "just Sling and Orb. Other streaming services will fall into the standard web-browsing tariff". It is thought that the extra access fee for Sling and Orb could be maintained until 3's national rollout of HSDPA — the souped-up version of 3G — is completed by the end of next year. By this point more HSDPA-capable handsets should also have hit the mass market.

In the meantime, however, questions remain over the quality of service that customers will be able to expect with 3's mobile broadband experience. Pre-HSDPA 3G is not the most high-bandwidth service, and problems could arise if multiple users are streaming video in one area. It emerged on Friday that 3's Skype service is not actually full VoIP over 3G, but will instead use a more traditional circuit-switched connection with the presence (knowing whether or not someone is online) being supplied through IP.

This effectively makes the Skype service a second line of sorts, although it remains restricted to use within the Skype community until the premium services are added next year. However, as the Skype network is itself IP-based, some problems with latency, or lag, may remain. The service would also suffer if 3G coverage was patchy, although 3 remains confident in its service quality.

"We're still in the process of bringing it to market but we have absolute confidence in the service and its reliability. It is a new service, of course, but we think this is something that customers are used to using online and we expect them to have a good service," the spokesperson said, adding that 3 had based its network "around a high-capacity service".

An X-Series phone
One of the first X-Series devices.

Topic: Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • This isn't the first time...

    T-mobile have had a flat rate scheme for "broadband" on mobiles for nearly a year now... so this is hardly the first time its happened
  • Ah, but...

    That's true to an extent, however T-Mobile's approach has been to say "ok, you can do this and this - but if you want to use instant messaging you need to pay an extra fee, and if you want to use VoIP then you need to pay another fee". What 3 are doing is to more or less pack everything (with the exception of Slingbox and Orb functionality - the most high-bandwidth stuff) into the basic flat rate - i.e. make it more like what you'd expect from broadband.
    David Meyer
  • T-Mobile allows everything if you pay enough

    "T-Mobile's pricing structure offers a low-priced, all-you-can-eat data package, but then adds further charges for use of instant messaging and VoIP and bans high-bandwidth usage such as video streaming."

    Not quite right. Current T-Mobile Web'n'Walk price plans (cost pcm):

  • Roberto Maietta

    As I mentioned on this forum some time ago, telco's are engaged in gouging, through variety of means.

    The artificial walls they've put up are being slowly eroded by tech-savvy users in the first case, and I cant help but feel its just a question of time before these early adopters give way to more mainstream users adopting the "bypassing technologies".

    The usage of technologies like Skype, unquestionably will bite into their revenues. But, what do you expect, when their charges are so high? So they need to grow their revenue base another way, as this article seems to be suggesting.

    I cant wait for the day when we have flat rate charges, even when you're overseas. This is certainly a long way off, and I dont see this happening any time soon, I have to say, for quite a variety of reasons. But, its something to look forward to.

    If the telcos actually put aside their gouging, and get together to create an environment thats truly "fixed price", then you'll see the whole mobile internet space explode, with new, more functional handsets, as manufacturers struggle to keep pace with the demand from now-free consumers.

    I suspect its in the interests of manufacturers and telcos to go down this road, as the current mobile internet space has been, correctly, described as "a bust".
  • What the new breed of customer wants!!

    The big networks are very slow at assessing and adapting to the rapidly changing needs of the customer of today. What is basically required of them is to provide a big ISP service that will allow computers, PDAs, gaming consoles, and VoIP type phones to seamlessly connect, both nationally and eventually world wide.
    Done properly, with sufficient bandwidth and connectivity available, using a home hub/router, this would before long replace the landline phone as we now know it.
    It would mean that a device would work (almost) anywhere just as mobile phones do now but without the problems.
    Revenue would be gained from a monthly subscription (a la ISPs) and a charge for using more than a bandwidth allowance.
    That is my vision of the comms future.
  • The sky is falling

    My view of the telco future is bleak, unless they change.

    I think that in the not-too-distant future, rather than mobile phones, there will be a lot more work in wi-fi style networks, which allow VoIP systems like Skype.

    In fact, depending on whether or not governments choose to enable or be roadblocks, you will eventually have a satellite service with decent bandwidth as an interim, and then finally a mesh environment with no centralised control at all.

    It is the lack of control that scares government and business, which will potentially put a temporary stop to the mesh implementation ( where each node can talk directly to the node nearest, without the need for a hierarchical control mechanism ).

    Frankly, I'd love to see satelitte cards in devices, so that I could bypass my telco entirely, and be able to talk to my neighbours through their own base stations directly.

    Imagine a napster style community model that enables the leveraging of long distance wireless networks, without regulatory interference, control, or cost.