3 gives VoIP, IM a push

Summary:The chief exec of the UK arm of mobile operator 3 said the company is set to heavily promote IP telephony and instant messaging on its network.

The chief exec of the UK arm of mobile operator 3 said the company is set to heavily promote IP telephony and instant messaging on its network.

Speaking at a mobile-broadband roundtable on Tuesday, Kevin Russell said the operator was "not too focused on content right now" and was instead planning to attack its larger competitors by actively pushing the types of "disruptive" services from which they tend to shy away.

As 3 is the smallest operator in the UK, it has traditionally offered newer services in a bid to steal market share. A notable example was the X-Series launch in late 2006, when 3 partnered up with VoIP provider Skype at the same time as launching the UK's first "all-you-can-eat" mobile data tariff.

"Email, VoIP, instant messaging — these are areas we will push hard," said Russell. "[These are] communications services that go around the [traditional mobile voice and text] regime, so they are very appropriate for 3 to target. You can go down the music or TV paths but my personal view is that you have to simplify the focus of your business to get it right."

However, Russell said it would be two to three years before 3 offered true VoIP; what 3 offers at the moment is a more traditional, circuit-switched voice connection with presence (the ability to tell whether someone else is "online" or not) provided via IP.

3's introduction of USB-connected mobile-broadband dongles for laptops has been a great success, Russell claimed. He said that, since they were launched by the operator five months ago, data traffic on 3's network has increased sevenfold. However, he claimed that 3 could "comfortably afford" the usage levels on the network, even though its mobile-broadband tariffs are aggressively priced, from £10 per month for 1GB usage.

However, Russell poured scorn on industry claims that mobile-broadband usage would overtake that of fixed-line broadband in 2012, reaching 70 to 90 percent of the market in 2015.

"Technically speaking, I don't believe [mobile broadband] is as good as fixed," he said. "Its benefits come in flexibility and convenience, but I'm not going to bang a drum that says mobile will replace fixed. [Mobile broadband] is a new market."

The operator currently has HSPA at speeds of 3.6Mbps. According to Russell, it will upgrade its network to 7.2Mbps later this year and start upgrading that to 14.4Mbps late in 2009. Once known for its poor coverage, 3 significantly boosted its footprint in the UK by creating a "joint venture" network-sharing agreement with T-Mobile in December last year.

Topics: Networking, Collaboration, Mobility, NBN, Social Enterprise, Telcos


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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