Low-key launch for 3

Unless you're a government minister, it'll probably be some weeks before you get your hands on Hutchison's 3G mobile service
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The first commercial 3G service in the UK got underway on Monday, in a notably low-key launch.

As expected, Hutchison kicked off 3 -- its high-speed mobile service -- on 03/03/03, but the company has already attracted criticism for the fact that customers won't be able to take delivery of a 3G handset today.

Instead, reports suggest it could be several weeks before paying customers actually get to use the service.

Two people were lucky enough to experience 3G on Monday, though. Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt -- who oversaw the controversial 3G auction in 2000 -- called Stephen Timms, the current e-commerce minister, using 3's handsets.

People have been able to pre-register for 3 since last month, but from Monday it will also be possible to place an order in on the high street, at Hutchison's 3Stores in London and Birmingham and at some branches of Dixons, The Link, Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U.

A 3 handset costs some £399 and there are three tariffs available.

With the pay-as-you-go option, video calls cost 50p per minute, voice calls to other 3 users cost 5p per minute, voice calls to other networks cost 10p per minute, text messages costs 10p each, picture messages cost 25p each and video messages cost 50p.

There is no line rental with this option, called 3ToGo, which also charges 50p for video downloads, including goals from the Premiership.

The midrange option, called Kit on 3, gives customers a package that includes 1,000 minutes of voice calls, 100 minutes of video calls, 60 picture messages, 40 video messages and 50 video downloads for £59.99 per month.

The top-end option -- Caboodle on 3 -- gives twice as much as Kit on 3, for £99.99 per month.

All three services include a free email service and Internet access to news reports, sports news, share prices and other content, until 30 June 2003.

The first 20,000 people who sign up for Kit on 3 or Caboodle on 3 before the end of March will get a handset for £200.

To see the latest news on the next generation of mobile communications, see the GPRS/3G News Section.

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