Hutchison Whampoa said on Friday that it intends to double the rate at which it signs up 3G customers worldwide, halving the cost of its most expensive handset, the multimedia-enabled NEC c616, to HKD1,980 (USD254) as part of the plan. However, the conglomerate’s bold move was received coolly by analysts, who are concerned that the company is merely using heavy subsidies to artificially improve the subscriber base. Hutch has committed USD22 billion on UMTS technology in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia, and recently announced that it had reached the one million subscriber mark, with around 10,000 new additions being enlisted each day. But with Hutchison’s share price being weighed down by the costs associated with the fledgling technology, the company’s supremo Li Ka-shing is now calling for a doubling of subscriber take-up to 20,000 a day.
Hutchison Whampoa launched Hong Kong’s first 3G wireless service on 27 January 2004, pricing its services competitively against the 2.5G services offered by rivals in the country’s competitive mobile market. Hutchison said subscription packages – all with bundled voice and video calls, text and multimedia messaging, and data usage – would start at HKD263 (USD34) per month, with the cheapest 3G handsets being priced at HKD3,980 (USD512). The cellco is trying to encourage users to sign up for its HKD520 (USD67) premium subscription packages by offering unlimited text and multimedia messaging for the first two months of the contract.