Virtual CEO launches Vodafone 3G
Bill Morrow trumpets data-only service from hotel cubicle
Vodafone's new CEO, Bill Morrow, picked a riverside venue in London to launch the company's 3G phone service - data only - at prices per bit which are around 10 per cent of the costs of GPRS.
He promised "typical" download speeds of 200 to 300 kilobits per second, with uploading at 64K for the time being. "But we anticipate new software will raise that to 128 kilobits within 18 months," he added.
Morrow appeared electronically in front of an audience of daily newspaper journalists in the Savoy Hotel, on the Thames embankment, and explained that "you don't have to be there any more". But he was there: he had a video connection from a cubicle hidden in the business meeting room.
The card will cost a maximum of £100 for the lowest-level data user, expecting to download only 5 meg a month, paying the lowest monthly tariff.
A typical user, said Morrow, would probably download only about 25 megabytes monthly, with a tariff of £20 a month; the heaviest user would pay £85 a month for a maximum of 500 megabytes download.
"The experience is similar to working with ADSL," said Morrow. "It's about seven times faster than the typical GPRS download."
Within two months, Morrow said, Vodafone expected to have WiFi. There will be, he said, a three-mode card available. The current dual-mode card does 2.5G and 3G.
"There will be no 'walled garden' for our users," Morrow promised. "We will allow voice over IP if your notebook uses it, and you'll have full access to the Internet."
Demonstrated, the card was capable of doing streaming audio at CD quality speeds, bearing out Morrow's promise. However, with almost no other users of the service existing at present, most observers didn't find it surprising that the full bandwidth was available. What they will wait for, is what the system looks like when there are thousands of subscribers in a small area - which probably won't be for a few months.
How many cards are available? "We aren't revealing that data," said Morrow. "We're rolling out in the UK first, with Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan; and next month, we'll add Germany, France, Ireland and Sweden."
"We'll hope to announce a deal in the next two months," Morrow said. "But when the handset is announced, it will be possible to use the phone as a 3G modem for your notebook."