Broadband and music key to 3’s Q4 strategy — Finnegan


11 Sep 2006

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A new chain of stores, high-speed mobile broadband services and a pioneering music service incorporating mobile phones and PCs will be key to 3 Ireland’s strategy for the traditionally strong fourth quarter, the company’s chief executive Robert Finnegan (pictured) told siliconrepublic.com.

Finnegan said that the company will open the first of its chain of 3-branded retail outlets in the Republic this autumn in Dublin followed by several more this year. The stores will augment existing arrangements with existing retailers such as Carphone Warehouse and are envisaged to add serious impetus to customer growth plans.

The 3G network operator which is owned by Hutchison Whampoa launched into the Irish marketplace just over a year ago as Ireland’s fourth mobile operator. Finnegan said the company is pleased with its progress so far. “We might be the last operator to enter the market but I think the best has been saved till last. We have a superior 3G network to anybody else that covers 80pc of the population, reaching 85pc by the end of this year.”

He is nonchalant about the apparent stranglehold both O2 and Vodafone have on a mobile market that is currently at 102pc penetration. “The market has been dominated by those two players and it has proved extremely lucrative for them but we intend to provide better value and bring much better content via 3G.”

As well as embarking on a significant retail strategy, Finnegan said that the company will be unveiling a HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) strategy later this year.

“Basically we will be showing the Irish market 3G as it is meant to be used, giving people simplicity and value instead of giving them a nasty surprise at the end of the month when the bill arrives.”

In the coming weeks 3 Ireland looks set to announce a new music service that will allow music buyers to download a track onto their phone from anywhere while simultaneously the song will download onto their PC at home or in the office.

In the near future, based on successful trials of DVB/H mobile television services by 3 in Italy, the company will begin trialling the services in Ireland.

Finnegan said that 3 Ireland’s usage of 3G networks and perceptions of better value will be key to the company’s growth in the Irish market. “I don’t believe that our competitors had much interest in rolling out 3G other than as a defensive mechanism. If Hutchison wasn’t around the chances are the others wouldn’t be in 3G.

“I think our competitors have misunderstood 3G and haven’t embraced it properly because of their lucrative position. We are here to change that and give people opportunities to understand 3G and move to a real multimedia offering.”

Finnegan used the black and white versus colour TV when differentiating his company’s approach to 3G. “We’re bringing people to colour and interactive services. That’s where 3G sits, allowing people to interact and pursue their interests be it football, music or TV on the go.”

On the subject of broadband, Finnegan termed the broadband penetration debacle in Ireland “an international embarrassment”. The situation, he added, provides enormous opportunities for mobile operators. “Later this year we will be offering broadband speeds at three times the speed most people get at home. As a result, I think we will have a role to play in moving Ireland up the broadband ladder.”

On 3’s mobile music strategy, Finnegan opined: “Music is very important in terms of how people will embrace 3G. We have found Tom Dunne’s The Hive show to be very popular here. Internationally, music downloads by mobile are gaining momentum. In Sweden, 3’s music sales are outpacing those of iTunes. Some 76pc of all music sales in the UK are on 3’s network. In Ireland, we want to be at the forefront of similar developments,” Finnegan said.

“There will be some very exciting developments in the coming months in how we will enable Irish consumers to buy music,” he concluded.

By John Kennedy