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

... 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.

Topics: Networking


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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