European cellular giants T-Mobile and O2 are going head-to-head in the UK mobile market with the simultaneous launch of high-speed wireless internet services this week. T-Mobile UK has launched its Web’n’Walk service just days after O2 UK became the thirteenth operator worldwide to introduce NTT DoCoMo’s patented i-mode offering. Both services offer high-speed web browsing via a range of compatible handsets utilising each operator’s GPRS and W-CDMA networks. O2 currently offers four i-mode phones – the NEC N411i and N343i, and Samsung S500i and Z320i – and has more on the way, whilst T-Mobile says it will have eight Web’n’Walk handsets in the stores for Christmas. Both companies are investing millions in advertising campaigns in the run-up to the festive period, with T-Mobile in particular keen to use the new service to ramp up its UK presence.
In terms of subscribers on its network, T-Mobile led the UK market at the end of June 2005. However, a large proportion of its 16.1 million reported subscribers are customers of MVNO Virgin Mobile, which utilises its infrastructure. In terms of subscribers using its own-brand services, T-Mobile is the fourth-placed operator behind Vodafone, Orange and O2. The cellco hopes that Web’n’Walk will change all that, and is placing particular emphasis on the service’s ability to offer unparalleled access to the internet, as opposed to the ‘walled garden approach’ employed by the bulk of its rivals.