BBC News UK Edition
    You are in: Business  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Market Data
Your Money
Fact Files
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 22:36 GMT
Isle of Man heads 3G race
Tracking share prices on a Siemens concept 3G terminal
3G will allow investors to track share prices on the move
The race to be the first to launch third-generation mobile phone services is hotting up.

Japan's NTT DoCoMo has set 30 May as its target date for starting services in Tokyo.

In Europe, Vivendi's Monaco Telecom is aiming to kick off operations in the principality in the summer.
The big issue is the availability of handsets

Mark Briers, Manx Telecom

UK consumers may, though, find that the world's first 3G services - also known as UMTS - are available much closer to home.

Manx Telecom, a British Telecom subsidiary, says it is working flat out to get the Isle of Man's mobile users hooked up some time during May.

Several hundred of the island's 30,000 mobile phone users might be the world's first consumers to sample such wireless services as high-speed internet access, video conferencing, online gambling and networked games.

Handset issue

Manx Telecom 3G programme director Mark Briers says the project is going well despite a "very challenging timescale".

The first base stations were delivered over the Christmas period and are now installed and switched on.

Whether 3G can be made to pay is the big imponderable for telecoms operators and investors alike

"The big issue is the availability of handsets," Mr Briers told BBC News Online.

"The more the better."

So far, Manx Telecom has secured "hundreds" of handsets rather than the thousands it would like.

They are being supplied by Japan's NEC Corporation, which, together with Germany's Siemens, is providing network infrastructure for both the Isle of Man and Monaco projects as well as working with NTT DoCoMo.

Important marker

The Isle of Man is a small market, with a population of 75,000 and about 30,000 mobile phone users (all of whom are Manx Telecom customers).

Despite this, its 3G project lays down a marker for telecoms firms all over the world.

The most immediate relevance will be for BT, which will, says Mr Briers, "learn a lot about the pitfalls and difficulties" of 3G as it prepares to launch services in mainland UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Briers says Manx Telecom's service is intended to be commercially successful rather than merely a chance for BT to try out the technology.

But he says BT's plans to float its wireless arm later this year prevent him revealing details of the company's commercial expectations.

He also declined to answer questions on how much Manx Telecom was investing in the project and how much 3G handsets would cost consumers.

He says Manx Telecom will run a wide-ranging promotional campaign targeting schools - competitions are planned with prizes of a month's 3G phone use - and the offshore banking and financial services industry.

The company is also in talks with a number of application providers about the wide range of possible new services.

Big imponderable

Whether or how soon 3G can be made to pay is, of course, the big imponderable for telecoms operators and investors alike.

Will the services be cheap enough and sophisticated enough to persuade consumers to upgrade in big numbers from the current 2G?

And will they prove profitable enough to justify the often huge investments operators will have made acquiring new licences and building networks?

Depressed telecoms share prices appear to provide investors' answer, at least for now.

But Manx Telecom is, unsurprisingly, more optimistic, believing 3G will provide the next big leap in the way we see, and use, the internet.

It predicts a sharp rise in commercial transactions through mobile phones and hopes that being among the first to adopt the new technology will position Manx Telecom and the Isle of Man - already a significant financial centre - as leaders in a mobile commerce revolution.

Key stories

Consumer choice?




Mobile web worries
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |