T-Mobile switches on UK 3G network

Competition will soon begin to heat up for 3G services in the UK - but will anyone be buying?

T-Mobile has switched on its 3G wireless network in the UK, paving the way for a launch of 3G handsets and a broader range of services in Britain, the company said on Monday. The network went live at one minute past midnight.

T-Mobile, which operates networks around Europe and in the US, is already running 3G networks in Germany and Austria, but currently users can only take advantage of the high-speed technology via a card in a laptop.

3 is the only company currently selling handsets for a 3G network in the UK, with Carphone Warehouse reselling 3's services. Most major network operators are planning 3G launches over the next few months.

Also on Monday, T-Mobile opened a management centre for all its European services, located in Bonn. The company said the UK network was the result of 10 years of planning and more than three million person-hours of work. "Our network quality and reliability already exceeds our commercial launch expectations and they give surprisingly good performance," said T-Mobile UK managing director Brian McBride in a statement.

Currently, only a small range of mobile phone handsets are available for 3G services, but major manufacturers are finally beginning to add to the selection. Sony Ericsson's Z1010 is to launch sometime this quarter, as the company's first 3G entry. Nokia launched its 3G-capable 7600 handset last month.

Earlier phone shortages had caused revenue problems for Hutchison Whampoa, 3's parent company.