MMO2 ready to launch 3G services

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Mobile phone group MM02 is planning to launch its first range of third generation (3G) handsets next week.

Europe’s sixth biggest mobile phone group will be offering 3G handsets to contract customers from Tuesday before extending the offer to pre-pay users.

MMO2 has not rushed to launch 3G services, saying the market would remain small until early 2006. Rival operators 3, Vodafone and Orange have already launched their own 3G services in the UK.

MMO2 said its 3G network would initially cover 32% of the UK, rising to 50% by June, but gave no subscriber projections for the service.

“We believe the service will initially appeal to a core group of pioneering customers, building towards mass market adoption in the latter part of 2005,” said Matthew Key, chief executive of MMO2’s UK unit.

MMO2 customers will be offered an initial range of six 3G handsets. The 3G technology enables users to download data at a faster rate than before, offering speedy access to a range of features such as news footage, movie trailers and downloadable music tracks.

In a trading update released on Thursday, MMO2 said average revenues per user rose by £1 to £283 in the UK during the last three months of 2004. The firm added 360,000 UK users, taking its total UK customer base to 14.2 million.

In Germany, MMO2 saw customer numbers rise by 729,000 customers to take its total base to 7.4 million.

“All our businesses remain full on track to deliver their full-year growth and margin targets,” said group chief executive Peter Erskine.