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Hutchison 3G unveils prices, services

Founders' Day

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It's been a close shave, but Hutchison 3G has got the customer ball rolling in December, just like it said it would - in the revised launch schedule.

The UK's newest mobile phone network is still in pre-registration mode but today it takes the wraps off pricing option "outlines", three phones, early-adopter customer promotions, flagship retail stores, complete with explanations and "sneak previews" on an updated, more useful web site.

So, the first 20,000 customers of 3, Hutchison's phone brand, are dubbed 'Founders'. Which is nice. More importantly, they get access to promotional voice-data bundles designed for heavy phone/3 service users, ranging from £59.99 to £99.99 month. The discounts run for 12 months, but before you all rush out, read the small print. International and premium rate calls are, understandably, excluded.

Handsets, two from NEC and one from Motorola are available separately at list price from £399. As very likely the handsets will be in short supply in the first few months, do not expect heavy retail discounting.

Pre-registration is to be had at www.three.co.uk.

Last and, because it's 3G, not least, certainly not least in pricing, 3's data services. These will deliver "live video calls, digital mapping and advanced satellite location-based services, exclusive video clips of Premiership football highlights, music, games, news and finance".

It is natural for 3 to kick off by targeting tech-savvy heavy users. That's where the easy profits are to be had. But in due course, expect low-cost light-user, cheap phone options. As a greenfield 3G network, 3 can squeeze much more traffic - up to seven times more- in each cell than a conventional 2G network. Which means that operating costs are lower. ®

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