The first Australian 3G mobile network has launched a price war on competing mobile operators but will rely on the take-up of video services to make it a success. Hutchison Telecommunications’ “3” was launched amid much blowing of trumpets in Sydney and Melbourne last week with video services expected to reach Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth in July. Voice, SMS and picture messaging are available immediately across Australia through roaming partner Vodafone. CEO, Kevin Russell, said Hutchison had managed to launch a 3G service in Australia one or two years before rivals Telstra, Optus and Vodafone because of the global reach and $28 billion in cash assets of parent company, Hutchison Whampoa. Hutchison expects to run up a bill of $3 billion in relation to “3”. “These services have not been seen before but will become a part of everyday life sooner than some people would have you believe,” Russell said. “Video-calling is simply a better service and will snowball.” Probably the most surprising feature of the launch, which will certainly have raised a few eyebrows in the offices of other mobile operators, was the aggressive pricing of services. Voice calls cost 15c for 30 seconds, SMS messages are also 15c, picture messages 25c and video messages or downloads 50c. “We want to attract customers and the key will be getting people using video-calling and other [video] content,” Russell said. He expected take up in the 20-35 years age bracket to surprise a few people. Applications development was underway globally and would provide further stimulation. The “3” service is initially available on two handsets – the NEC e606 and Motorola A830 – that will be sold through Hutchison outlets in “prime” Melbourne and Sydney retail locations. Russell estimated there would be 70 Hutchison outlets nationwide by the end of the year. Strathfield Car Radio was signed up to act as a dealership from May. He envisaged other dealership opportunities would be significant as the service takes off. The A830 is available for $480, with features including the ability to act as a modem for connection to the Internet via a laptop, a detachable camera for video and picture messaging, video downloading and streaming, email, an MP3 player, 2MB of internal memory with a 32MB card included, Bluetooth, USB and infrared connectivity but no Videotalk facility. The e606 comes with a built-in digital still and video camera, Videotalk, a digital music player, 32MB of memory, modem use and video downloads for $768. Both models have a connection fee of $100 and come with a range of entertainment facilities from content providers including Reuters, Fox, Channel Nine and the Comedy Channel. An NEC e808N will be available within weeks, featuring a larger viewing screen and QWERTY keypad, with a Motorola A920 introducing PDA functionality to the network later in the year. Early adopters will be able to return handsets in 12 months and receive a $300 credit on an upgrade. Just days behind the UK and Italian launches, Australia is the third country to go live and will be joined by Hong Kong as well as Austria, Denmark and Sweden in coming months if all goes to plan. New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, and Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, conducted the first official video call and swapped predictably flattering comments about each other and the two states. Carr predicted jobs would follow as customer numbers rose. He said innovation fed wealth generation and economic growth.
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