When Vodafone formally launches its 3G network in Ireland this December, the emphasis will be on network services similar to that of its Connect Card rather than flashy handsets, the company has said.
In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, Vodafone Ireland’s chief technology officer Fergal Kelly said that the company has completely 3G-enabled its networks in Ireland’s major cities and has commenced work on towns with populations of around 5,000 people or more. He said that some 1,500 base stations around the country would be 3G-enabled by Christmas.
Kelly revealed that Vodafone in Dublin is responsible for the worldwide 3G testing regime for the Vodafone Group and conducts technology research and development with nearby Microsoft and Veritest. Together the three companies work out hardware and software compatibilities and aim to ensure that connections to networks over smart phones, PDAs and laptops remain robust.
He told siliconrepublic.com: “Our first foray into 3G will be with services and that will be the rule throughout the world. The only exception will be Japan because they need to be able to compete head to head with DoCoMo.”
Kelly explained that the only 3G handsets available to the Irish market at present are Nokia handsets that are currently on trial and these would retail for between €600 and €1,000. “We want to introduce services that drive usage. While we will aim to be bringing a number of 3G handsets onto the market in the New Year, we haven’t a big agenda around smart phones to go in tandem with the launch.”
He added: “The focus of our 3G launch will be around data, not voice, so for that reason we will be pinning our earliest launch around the 3G Connect Card, the next generation of the current GPRS Connect Card for business. We will be playing down the 3G aspect of it all and focusing on higher speed and more resilient data services. While the first 3G handsets will only be capable of speeds of around 64kbps, the Connect Card will be capable of data speeds of 384kbps, which we believe will be attractive to businesses with mobile workforces, whom we believe will be the earliest adopters of 3G.”
Kelly also revealed that Vodafone is currently transitioning 2G voice services onto the future 3G-based service. “We are currently spending €6m a week between upgrades and maintenance of our network,” he said.
In terms of the consumer market in the run-up to Christmas, Kelly revealed that MMS video messaging and streaming on 2.5G phones as well as the N-gage games platform would feature strongly in Vodafone’s seasonal push.
By John Kennedy