The German arm of pan-European mobile operator O2 has revealed plans to launch a residential third-generation (3G) service in the autumn. The offering will enable O2 customers with a laptop computer or PDA to connect to the internet on the same tariffs as they would pay for their basic fixed line services. Customers will be able to choose whether to have the connection charged by data volume or time spent online. O2 has yet to reveal the exact bandwidth capabilities of the new service.
By taking the laptop/PDA pilot route for its initial commercial 3G offering, O2 is following a similar strategy to Europe’s biggest cellco, Vodafone, which has built a pilot 3G network in Portugal covering Lisbon, Oporto, Coimbra and Aveiro. In mid-February 2004 it launched a Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS laptop computer datacard, offering data transmission rates of up to 384kbps.
Meanwhile, Germany’s biggest mobile operator, Deutsche Telekom’s subsidiary T-Mobile, is remaining relatively tight-lipped about its own 3G launch plans, apart from saying that it does not want to mimic Vodafone or 02’s ‘phoneless 3G launches’. Last month T-Mobile said that it expected to unveil a range of 3G phones ‘within weeks not months’, and was on the verge of making ‘an interesting announcement’. This has led to a flurry of speculation that T-Mobile could become the first among Europe’s real mobile heavyweights to start selling 3G phones on a full commercial basis.