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3 Italia has become Europe's first mobile operator to own a national digital TV licence after it acquired Italian broadcaster Channel 7.

The Italy-based 3G operator - majority owned by Hutchison Whampoa - is looking to develop pay TV and interactive services for its mobile video network using DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting: Handheld) technology. Services are due to begin in the second half of 2006, the company said in a statement.

Financial details were not released but reports suggest that 3 paid between €30m - €35m (£20m - £24m) for the channel.

Separately, Hutchison confirmed that it had found a window in its diary - Q1 2006 - for the possible IPO of 3 Italia.

Closer to home, Marketing reports 3 UK's COO, Gareth Jones, is to leave the company after being in the job for the last two years. He's clearing his desk following a restructure of the business, reports the industry mag.

A spokesman for the 3 declined to comment on the report except to say: "We've made no announcements regarding any of our directors." ®

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