Hutchison kicks off UK, Italy 3G trials in October

Confirms handset problems

Hutchison will begin commercial trials of its 3G service in the UK and Italy, enlisting at least 10,000 guinea pigs, in October.

The company expects to extend 3G network coverage to 80 per cent of the UK by 2003, Canning Fok, MD of parent company Hutchison Whampoa, told the press in a phone conference. At launch date, both UK and Italy will have 50 per cent coverage.

The company also confirmed a Sunday Times report that its dual-mode handsets, supplied by Motorola, will suffer glitches, in the form of dropped calls, for several months.

"Of course there will be dropped calls, but we don't think that's a problem. Every network experiences dropped calls," Fok said, Bloomberg reports.

Hmm. 3G tariffs will be expensive. Early adopters will expect better service than from today's networks. Otherwise, what's the point of signing up? And if there's no point signing up, when will anyone make any money?

That's the question that Telefonica faced up to last week. Last week the telco abandoned Germany and wrote off its entire 3G investment, amounting to € 4.8bn.

Hutchison 3G is one of five 3G network licence holders in the UK, and the only greenfield entrant. The company recently beat off Vodafone and BT to win Ireland's top 'A' 3G licence. And some point it will, in common with the rest of Hutchison's worldwide 3G telecoms operations, be rebranded as 3. ®

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