Tesco to launch mobile phone network

Supermarket giant promises the cheapest tariff in the country

UK supermarket chain Tesco announced ambitious plans Friday to launch a mobile phone network, promising to wow customers with its prices.

Tesco will offer a pay-as-you-go service but will not be directly taking on the likes of BT Cellnet, Vodafone and Orange for mobile phone users, as it intends to lease airtime from an unnamed network supplier.

It says, however, that this is more than just a re-branding stunt and promises to offer the lowest tariffs in the land when the service debuts at the start of next year.

Tesco hopes to link the phone service closely with its existing business and says it will develop unique handsets for network users, optimised for shopping. The supermarket giant will initially offer a standard voice service but says that a WAP offering will follow shortly afterwards. "Hot-buttons" on the phones will give users easy access to Tesco's electronic shopping services.

"Not everyone has a PC or is going to spend six or seven thousand pounds in order to shop with us," says a Tesco spokesman. "This will enable them to do that."

The spokesman says that the launch follows extensive research into the tastes of mobile phone users in the UK. The research found that many mobile phone customers regarded existing phone tariffs as expensive and confusing.

Tesco also says that this is one part of a broader plan to expand into other mediums, which include digital television. "It's part of a strategy to give customers as many options as possible," says the spokesman.

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