Telstra 3G service to launch next month

Australia's biggest telco will launch its third-generation high speed mobile service offering on September 5.

update Australia's largest telco will launch its third-generation mobile phone service on September 5, on the back of its $450 million network sharing deal with competitor Hutchison.

Telstra's service will operate between 200kbps and 300 kbps in capital cities (except Darwin and Hobart), in addition to the Gold Coast. 3G services outside these areas are "more likely to be delivered" on the company's existing -- but slower -- GSM network.

The 3G handsets -- from vendors Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and NEC -- will be sold with capped plans at $49 and $79 a month. Telstra claims the plans offer up $250 and $550 worth of standard voice calls, respectively.

Around half of Australia's population will be covered by the next-generation network, according to Telstra.

The provision of advanced video services is 3G's key selling point. Telstra subscribers will be able to make video calls to each other and also to Hutchison's '3' branded subscribers.

"Video calling between Telstra and other carriers' customers will be technically possible when the other carriers launch their 3G services," the company said in a statement.

Customers will have two options for accessing Telstra's 3G service. Its new 'Active' channel will deliver video content sites, video calling and video messagebank, while customers can opt for the i-mode channel which has, since last November, provided online access to interactive applications like the WhereIs mapping service.

The i-mode channel is used by Telstra under an agreement with Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo.

Telstra will also take aim at laptop Internet access, duplicating Hutchison's NetConnect PCMCIA card in a solution dubbed "Telstra 3G Connect". Consumers will also be able to gain access to their BigPond e-mail accounts through their handsets, along with the Hotmail and Yahoo e-mail access already delivered via i-mode.

Telstra will offer customers two months' free access to Active with each 3G handset (including $100 worth of content), along with a 60 day free trial period for those who sign up for an i-mode account. Thereafter, content will be charged by each individual content provider, with surfing and e-mail data costs being billed by Telstra at between $2.50 and $5 per megabyte.

Optus and Vodafone are scheduled to launch their 3G offerings later this year.