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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
MMO2 defends cautious 3G approach
02 Connection Manager plug-in card
MMO2's 3G PC plug-in card. Its 3G mobile phones have yet to come
MMO2 has defended its decision not to join the current push to roll-out third generation (3G) mobile phone services.

The UK operator said expectations of a rush for 3G phones this Christmas were premature, adding that the market would remain small until at least late 2005.

Rival Vodafone last week said it planned to launch 10 new 3G handsets, in November.

MM02's comments came as it unveiled the launch of its integrated 3G laptop PC plug-in card, aimed at business users.

Big ticket licenses'

Operators are keen to develop 3G mobile phone services - which offer video calling, video messaging and state-of-the-art games - after spending close to 22.5bn acquiring UK 3G licences.

The mobile industry has had high hopes for 3G, but the consumer market has shown less interest than the sector had expected.

Currently, Asian conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa's '3' is the only operator offering 3G mobile phone services in the UK.

Vodafone said its new 3G services would open up "a whole new world of communication and entertainment via the mobile phone".

"We don't believe that 3G will be a mass market for Christmas," said Grahame Riddell, MM02's head of mobile data marketing.

"We are not looking at 3G as a big technology push. Other operators have been rolling-out PR, they are talking about 3G. But we've got to make sure the customer experience is right, there is no benefit if you don't have a proper customer proposition."

MMO2 said its 3G coverage would be limited to five cities in the UK, including London and Edinburgh, moving up to 20 major cities and towns by Christmas.

Orange currently boasts 66% UK 3G coverage, while Vodafone plans a population coverage of 50% by the end of the year.

MMO2 said its Connection Manager plug-in card would allow users to connect to the internet via the company's fledgling 3G network, its more widely used - but slower - GPRS network or at high-speed Wireless LAN hotspots in places such as hotels or airports.

Available from 1 October, the card follows similar offerings from rival mobile operators Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile.




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