Tuesday’s announcement by Vodaphone that they will launch their new 3G mobile service in Germany and Portugal is another topic which rattles some skeletons which have recently been kept well locked-away and out of reach.
As the Times is only too willing to remind us: “the auction of 3G licences conducted in the UK was the largest process of its kind ever conducted, earning for the Government some ?22 billion in 2000”. And then suddenly everything went strangely quiet!
Really 3G has been plagued with problems, and I have the feeling that it is a hot potatoe that nobody really knows where to put down. Clearly it is a visionary, future-oriented technology: but is there a market for it, will it be profitable, and if so, when?
Well the race is now well and truly on with Hutchison Whampoa, Orange (which launched its first 3G services in “Pilot City” Toulouse on Monday) and T-Mobile ( which has reacted to the Vodafone move by saying it will start selling 3G handsets immediately and by bringing forward its planned launch by a week).
Vodafone?s chief marketing officer, Peter Bamford, puts it like this:
“Consumer trials have indicated that early adopters are keen to try this technology and so we are giving them a taste of it prior to the full launch of enhanced services later in the year.?
My own feeling is that there is a market, but not a sufficient one given the existing cost structure. In plain terms: if they make it too expensive virtually no-one will use it, and if it is too cheap there will be users but no profits. Either way it seems like it could be losing proposition in the short run.
Among the other details of interest are the choice of the Samsung Z105 for the launch (ouch Nokia!). And of course underlying it all the history of the alleged superiority of the EU planned standards-based roll-out over the anarchic and disruptive US ‘deregulated’ model. You certainly don’t seem to hear too much about this here in Europe these days. As I said, haven’t they gone quiet!