3 to introduce business tariffs

23 May 2007

3G mobile operator 3 Ireland is planning to introduce specific business tariffs later this year, the company’s chief executive Robert Finnegan (pictured) told siliconrepublic.com.

The company will today unveil a new 10GB tariff for users of its 3.6Mb per second mobile broadband service.

The new broadband package offers 10GB of data for €19.99 a month via a small portable USB device you plug into your laptop. The device will cost €129 to buy.

Finnegan revealed that at the end of June 3 Ireland will introduce its X-series of next generation 3G services whereby users will pay a flat fee and be able to make Skype calls as well as broadband era services from players like Slingbox, Orb, Yahoo!, Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger, eBay and Google.

The first device out of the X-series stable will be the Nokia N73.

The move towards a 10GB tariff follows the launch in January of 3’s HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) laptop card, which had a 3GB download limit and cost €39.99 a month.

“The idea is to bring more broadband to people who either simply want to connect anywhere they wish to or can’t get broadband access because they are on long waiting lists with the incumbent,” said Finnegan.

Finnegan believes the new offering will stand up well against competing offerings from mobile operator Vodafone, which offers HSDPA products for €39.99 a month.

“Fixed line operators on average charge €29.99 a month for DSL with a limit of 20GB. The reality is that people use less than a gigabyte in a month and as a result are paying exorbitant costs for no reason,” said Finnegan.

Finnegan added he is banking on the new offering will challenge both fixed line operators and wireless broadband suppliers in terms of speed and price.

At present 3’s broadband network covers 85pc of the country while 99.5pc of the country is covered for voice and text services.

“The Government’s scheme on regional broadband will involve including different types of technology, of which HSDPA is one. From what I can see the Department of Communications is quite excited about the contribution mobile can make.”

What 3 hasn’t done yet is promote actively its broadband service to the business community, which is awash with laptop users craving flexibility and high speed connectivity.

Asked about this obvious omission, Finnegan says he has it all worked out. “We will be bringing out business tariffs at the end of the year. We haven’t started promoting it to business yet but once we do things will get interesting.”

It emerged in recent weeks that the largest mobile operators in the country, Vodafone and O2, are planning to enter the fixed line broadband market.

Finnegan doesn’t see 3 moving in the same direction any time soon. “The other operators are in a situation where their ARPU (average revenue per user) is declining and given the fixed line charges in Ireland I feel it is a move just to boost ARPU.

“The technology and network we have sets us apart and we are moving into an area where we can offer fantastic value for internet users. We don’t see a need to go fixed line. At 3.6Mb per second we are faster and costs 50pc less than other operators.

“The situation with broadband in Ireland is quite bizarre. Services are over priced and unavailable in areas. I think our aim is to bring value and opportunities to people who want broadband services. We then wish to take those values and turn them into a business offering,” Finnegan concluded.

By John Kennedy