T-Mobile and Vodafone prepare 3G offerings

Two of the UK's largest mobile phone operators are preparing services for the 3G business market

Vodafone and T-Mobile are set to lock horns in the UK 3G market next month as both companies attack the business market, while 3, the UK's first 3G operator, said it is happy pursuing consumers -- for now.

Vodafone will launch its Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card on 2 April, which will be targeted at business users who want to connect their laptops and PDAs to the Internet and corporate applications while travelling. T-Mobile said last week it would be launching a similar product in May, but that its data card would also include support for Wi-Fi.

This is a different approach to the one taken by Hutchison's 3, which started delivering the UK's first 3G services over a year ago and has so far signed up around 361,000 subscribers. The company said it has seen a surge in interest this year after it ironed out problems in its handset supply chain, but it is definitely not interested in competing with the others, at least in the short term. "We are confident now that with the price plans and range of handets we have, that we are looking at accelerated growth in 2004. We welcome the competition and look forward to the other networks offering a video mobile service, but we are not focusing on [the business] market at the moment -- with a view to possibly looking at it in the longer term," said a 3 spokesperson.

Although T-Mobile last week said its first 3G services will be aimed at businesses, the company is keeping its options open by targeting consumers as well: "Both markets are fundamentally important. We think the mobile is essential to the way we live our lifestyles for both business users and the mass market," said Elaine Devereux, UK PR director at T-Mobile.

Three said its customers bring in an average revenue of around £45 per user per month, while T-Mobile will be charging £99 for the combined GPRS/3G/Wi-Fi data card with a £70 per month subscription for unlimited data use regardless of connection technology. Vodafone has yet to release any information about 3G pricing.