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April 5, 2004

Vodafone’s 3G handset services in the starting gate

Mobile operator Vodafone Group Plc looks set to introduce its first 3G voice and consumer data services in the next two months, according to the company's UK chief.

By CBR Staff Writer

Vodafone UK CEO Bill Morrow told journalists at the launch of its 3G data card service last Friday that handsets able to access the new network will be made available in the UK in the near future.

We will have initial consumer offerings in the next couple of months before a [full] launch in the autumn, said Morrow. You can extrapolate that there will be handsets in the next couple of months.

Morrow would not be drawn on further details, but it would not be unreasonable to expect an enhanced version of the company’s successful Live service featuring services such as video messaging and high-quality streaming.

Handset-wise, Vodafone’s strategy is less clear given the lack of devices currently on the European market that are available to it. However, again it is likely that Live will provide a guide to Vodafone’s early offering.

Vodafone and Japan’s Sharp Corp, which previously had no significant presence in Europe, have already worked closely to create handsets designed exclusively with Live in mind. There is also circumstantial evidence that Sharp will again feature in Vodafone’s handset roadmap for 3G.

Vodafone has previously stated its intention to work with Asian handset vendors for its 3G services. The move was a reaction by the operator against the power of Nokia and other major handset vendors that push their own specifications for handsets rather than directly meeting the needs of operators.

Morrow said Vodafone’s UK 3G network currently extends to 30% of the population although he claimed that equates to 41% of the geographic area where data traffic is currently carried. That is likely to have increased significantly by the time the full 3G service is launched.

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This article is based on material originally published by ComputerWire

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