Colin Barker | ZDNet UK | October 03, 2005, 16:50 BST
BT has taken its first step into 3G with a low-cost service that also combines Wi-Fi and GPRS, with Vodafone as a partner
More than five years after it won one of the UK's 3G licences BT has finally launched a third-generation mobile product, a combined 3G, Wi-Fi and GPRS service called BT Datazone.
In a low-key announcement, BT said Datazone was its "first step into 3G". It will allow business users to access the Internet, use email and download files over 3G or GRPS across the country, or over Wi-Fi at over 7,400 BT Openzone hotspots in the UK and Ireland.
Customers have waited for some time for BT to produce a 3G service. The company won a 3G licence in 2000, then sold it when it spun off its mobile offerings as mm02, before subsequently signing a deal with Vodafone to resell its mobile offering.
Datazone is largely a flat rate service with consolidated billing and no need to purchase individual connectivity packages, BT said. A Datazone package costs £49 per month and includes 4,000 minutes of Wi-Fi access via BT Openzone as well as the ability to download up to 75MB of information via 3G or GPRS.
"This is reasonably competitive", said Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis. "My main reservation is that with no 3G roaming coverage outside of the UK and Ireland it is probably less useful."
Chris Clark, chief executive of converged mobility operations at BT Retail, said that as well as offering connectivity Datazone had "the added benefit of providing companies with tighter cost control over their remote working solutions". The fact that customers can download files at up to 2Mbps using Wi-Fi should be very attractive to business customers, Clark said.
On the question of network coverage, BT claims that Vodafone's 3G network now offers 64 percent population coverage in the UK and Ireland with 3G network with a speed of 64Kbps.