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'3' sales pitch ignores 3G

Sales of the first 3G handsets are being pushed along with offers of cheap voice calls rather than the network's video capabilities
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

Despite having its 3G networks now mostly up and running in the UK and Italy and further launches taking shape, Hutchison isn't properly pushing third-generation services.

According to the latest mystery shopper research, shops selling 3 phones in the UK - whether well-known high street chains or the company's own flagship stores - are pointing out the attractive voice tariffs on offer rather than data and video services.

In his latest research note, Strand Consult chief executive John Strand explains 3 is buying customers by offering lowest per minute prices and not focusing on non-voice services, which should account for around 40 per cent of 3G revenues, in accordance with forecasts.

He said in a statement: "These two factors can influence the customers' perception of 3 - to the effect that 3 is just a new discount brand."

3 is the first fully-fledged 3G operator in Europe and so eyes are on its progress, especially those of established 2G operators who are finalising their roll out plans.

For these companies, a high street presence is extremely important. For example next Thursday, Vodafone will open a flagship, state-of-the-art mobile phone superstore on Oxford Street, London's busiest shopping area.

Such has been the success of Carphone Warehouse, Europe's biggest mobile phone retailer, that it is now in a position to enter more lucrative market segments around Europe.

However, education of users is all-important, as Orange is going to great lengths to point out at the moment.

Strand added: "Everyone knew 3 had to start from scratch and go out and convince customers to switch to 3G but it does seem like a great pity that customers will have absolutely no idea why they should choose a 3G phone - other than cheap voice minutes."

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

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