mmO2 launches WLAN in UK, pumps up XDA

Data crazed

mm02 paraded a clutch of plans today to improve data revenues. The mobile network operator is setting up a public wireless LAN (PWLAN) network in the UK, introducing ICQ instant messaging to its German operation, and committing to an updated version of its XDA voice/data handset, out in time for Christmas.

O2 is gunning for business travellers with its WLAN service and is staking out hotels, conference centres, big railway stations and airports for hotspots in the UK. The company is also upping the number of hotspots this summer in Germany from 30 to 100 and is tweaking pre-paid and contract price plans. It has signed roaming deals with GlobalAirnet and WLAN AG to deliver purportedly seamless access to more than 1,000 access points across Europe. Last but not least, 02 has signed up with Excilan, described by the network operator as an "WLAN enabler". This Luxembourg company is supplying the billing and payments platform and joining O2 to a worldwide network of hotspots formed by its customers.

O2 says the WLAN roll-out builds on its success in Ireland, its third country operation, where the company has climbed into marketing bed with Intel. O2 will promote the Intel Centrino wireless laptop brand in all its hotspots.

In as statement today Kent Thexton, chief data and marketing officer, mmO2, said: "We are confident that the right strategy is to offer public wireless LANs as a complementary part of our mobile data proposition for customers. Although demand for standalone public wLAN services is relatively small, we believe seamless services based on a mix of local and wide area mobile networks have the potential to offer huge customer benefits and tangible commercial returns."

O2's product and services launch broadcasts accompanies a breakdown of mobile data revenues from mm02. The company reports that MMS active user numbers nearly doubled to 180,000+ since end of March 2003, while active GPRS subscribers jumped by 120,000 to 643,000 as "more customers took up O2's Blackberry 'email on the move'", with 27,000 units sold to date. O2 has now sold 64,000 XDAs.

The company's new consumer data service, 02 Active, a competitor to the likes of Vodafone Live! and OrangeWorld, has picked up 60,000 active users since launching on 2 June 2003. O2 notes that almost 600,000 customers have compatible handsets so there is plenty of revenue backfill opportunity here.

Today O2 also reports the results of a six-week video and music downloads trial. The most popular video service was news supplied by Sky, followed by footie clips. Avril Lavigne topped the 02 pop-picking punters download chart. ®

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