3 rolls out 3.6MB broadband

17 Nov 2006

3 Ireland said last night that it plans to offer 3.6MB per second mobile broadband services across 85pc of the country from the first quarter of next year. The company also said that it will be unveiling a range of new services specifically targeted at the Irish business sector.

3’s parent company Hutchison Whampoa yesterday announced the onset of its X-Series of HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) based broadband services with a flat-rate pricing model that will eventually replace metered billing.

The managing director of 3 Ireland Robert Finnegan (pictured) described the move as revolutionary and one that — because it will be priced like fixed-line broadband — will potentially forever change the perception of mobile and broadband in the Irish market.

3 said that the onset of X-series marks a new way of doing business for mobile operators and extends several of the core applications and uses of the broadband internet to the mobile handset.

Customers of 3 will be able to make unlimited calls from their mobile using Skype, watch their home television via their mobile using Sling, access their home PC remotely uising Orb and have access to internet and messaging services from Yahoo, Windows Live Messenger and Google.

Finnegan said that he would not disclose the new flat rates but said that they will be made public in the first quarter.

The company said that the new services will be supported by cutting-edge handsets from the world’s leading mobile manufacturers.

Finnegan added that as well as HSDPA handsets for consumers, the company will also be bringing out HSDPA data cards which will mark its foray into the Irish business market.

He said that already the company has 100pc HSDPA coverage of Dublin and by January will have 100pc HSDPA coverage of its 3G network, which covers 85pc of Ireland. The company has almost 100pc coverage of the Irish market in terms of voice services.

Finnegan described the new broadband services as “competitive even against fixed-line broadband.” He continued: “The new service will be three times faster than home broadband and faster than what our competitors will do with HSDPA if they ever get around to it.

“We see this as helping Ireland overcome the huge embarrassment in terms of performing poorly in the fixed broadband league tables. This is an opportunity to become mobile enabled at speeds that exceed fixed line. It’s not something you will have to wait six months for, it’s here and it’s now.”

Ovum principal analyst John Delaney said that until now mobile operators in western Europe have been trying to avoid having their data business follow the internet business model.

Delaney said: “Everything about the internet that worries the mobile operators is here. Flat-rate data tariffs remove the link between service usage and end-user revenue. VoIP undermines mobile voice revenues. Instant messaging offers text messaging at a fraction of the price of SMS.

“The big portal brands are far more powerfully associated with internet services than the operators’ brands. Open internet access means you never have to see the operator’s portal again, if you don’t want to.”

“True, the idea of ‘the internet on your mobile’ has been done before,” continued Delaney. “T-Mobile’s Web n Walk is a mobile internet service which encompasses some big brands (Google, eBay), and it also has a flat-rate data tariff (available only to customers with a voice contract).

“But by limiting everything to the browser T-Mobile avoids having people use the worrying services like Skype and MSN Messenger. 3’s package, however, does some caveats in this regard: yes, you can make free Skype calls, but only to PCs or to phones that are also running Skype.

“The X-Series also takes a stride forward in the use of the mobile phone as an extension of the connected home. Many summarise the future of media consumption in the phrase ‘everything, anywhere’.

“While the X-Series doesn’t deliver that ideal, its ability to access home TV services and content stored on PCs looks like going further in that direction than anything else we’ve seen to date from mobile operators in Europe,” said Delaney.

By John Kennedy