3 Ireland starts to take shape

26 May 2005

The launch of Hutchison’s 3G network later this year will provide Irish consumers with their first taste of handsets from NEC and LG as well as a new roster of mobile services. The Japanese and Korean companies have been key suppliers to Hutchison’s 3G network since it launched in the UK in 2003 and their phones are expected to figure strongly in its Irish launch portfolio.

The current UK range of 12 handsets includes four from NEC, three from LG and five from Motorola. The teardrop-shaped 7600 is the only phone to feature in the range from market leader Nokia.

The NEC 338 was one of the latest handsets to launch in the UK, a clamshell camera phone with a rotating lens to make the most of 3’s video-calling service. Another clamshell, the 616V, has two built-in zoom cameras and a camera light for low-light shooting conditions. Among the LG range is the LG U8120, a camera clamshell that also boasts a built-in music player. Exactly which models will launch in Ireland — and when — is still to be confirmed.

Hutchison could confirm, however, that it has appointed the man who will head up the Irish operation, Stephen Pilkington. An Irishman and postgraduate of University College Dublin, Pilkington has worked for Hutchison for the past five years and has been managing the Ireland network rollout since July 2003 where he will now take up the position as commercial director. Previously, he had been involved in establishing 3 in Austria and other parts of Europe.

3 has invested more than €200m in its Irish network to date. It claims to be the UK’s fastest growing network and the largest 3G operator in the world with a global customer base of eight million. It has built its brand through a combination of multimedia services and bundled tariffs, which have made its voice calls among the cheapest on the market. Its content proposition also differs from existing Irish operators in offering its customers a ‘walled garden’, a controlled environment rather than open access to the internet. “Some 80pc of what you can do on the internet [with a mobile device] is unusable,” says 3’s chief operating officer Gareth Jones.

By Ian Campbell