O2 is breaking ranks with other UK mobile operators by not offering consumer 3G services in time for Christmas. The company will offer business data services but does not believe the technology will be ready for mass adoption until late 2005 and it criticises rivals for over-hyping 3G services.
O2 is offering "O2 Connection Manager" - software to manage a datacard which will work on 3G, wireless LAN and GPRS networks. It has done deals with BT Openzone and The Cloud to provide coverage. The card, from Novatel, costs £110 and automatically detects what networks are available and manages access to them. Services are currently available in "key conurbations" and this will roll out to 20 towns and cities by Christmas.
In a veiled attack on rivals 3 and Vodafone, Dave McGlade, CEO of 02 UK, said mobile operators should focus on customer services, rather than getting technology to market first. "As an industry we have a track record of hyping technology before it is ready. Instead we should be launching it only when it has the right customer experience...3G will be a central pillar for the mobile industry moving forwards - but we won't see mass market adoption of this technology until late 2005."
Orange and T-Mobile are also expected to stick to data-only services this year. Vodafone announced its Christmas list of 3G handsets last week. ®