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Predicts 10m users by 2006

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Vodafone is launching its 3G services with a range of ten handsets from Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony Ericsson. Prices depend on the tariff chosen but range between free and several hundred pounds. Services are charged on a per-use basis and some of the phones are available on pre-pay contracts.

It is selling services as an extension to its Vodafone Live! portal rather than under a different brand. Vodafone has offered a 3G datacard since February this year. The mobile telco predicts it will have 10m people using its 3G services by March 2006. Vodafone is the first of the established mobile players to have handsets ready for sale. Orange, which also offers a datacard, is hoping to follow suit soon.

Analyst house Ovum welcomed the announcement. In a response on their website here, the analysts welcomed "the first tier one operator to make a pan-European commercial launch of 3G services for the consumer market." Ovum also reckons Vodafone offers a decent range of handsets and supports its decision to sell it as an add-on to Vodafone Live! The only question they raise is whether Vodafone's coverage is good enough. The network covers most urban areas but if the services are really compelling then people will want to access them wherever they are.

Subscribers will be able to make video calls, download music and watch video clips. News clips come from ITN. Vodafone has done a deal with Twentieth Century Fox to access specially made video content. Fans of 24 will be able to download 24 one minute episodes inspired by the series. Vodafone Live! will also host a "Film of the Month". Subscribers will get access to trailers, clips and associated pictures, ringtones and wallpaper. The first film of the month is the Bridget Jones sequel.

The services will be accessible from Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. ®

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