The ambitious plans of Hutchison 3G UK Ltd to be the first operator to launch a commercial 3G service in Europe, received a further boost following the news it has 30,000 registrations for its video mobile service in the United Kingdom.
The company is expected to spend tens of millions of pounds this year on advertising the launch of its 3G service, which will be branded "3". It already has in excess of 1,000 3G test handsets in operation across the UK, and expects to launch the service before the end of March. It should be noted that this 3G service will only cover 50% of the UK population (outside these areas, users will roam the 2G network of mm02).
Hutchison had been expecting to launch its 3G service by December 2002, but technical problems have pushed the project six months behind schedule. The delay has meant that Hutchison Group is facing a massive increase in costs, and has had to delay the March launch date of its 3G service in Australia, where it had the chance to steal a march on bigger rivals Telstra and Optus, which are currently in the 3G pilot stage.
Hutchison Group had a strict timetable for the roll-out of 3G services around the world, with UK first, followed by Italy, Hong Kong, and then Australia. The group is spending more than 7bn pounds ($11,2bn) on 3G in Europe, against 1bn pounds ($1.6bn) in Australia.
For the first 20,000 customers in the UK, the 3G service will cost 59.99 pounds ($94) or 99.99 pounds ($159) per month, depending on the amounts of "free" voice and video calls, as well as text and picture messaging. Handset prices will start from 399 pounds ($640), although promotional discounts could drop this down to the 200 pound ($321) mark.
The news follows the earlier announcements that Hutchison 3G has signed deals with "The Link", a chain of mobile phone outlets, along with the 325 strong chain of "Phones 4u" stores, to sell the "3"-branded 3G handsets and other products and multimedia services.