It cost billions of pounds and took over three years to set up the network, but this month Vodafone ( finally launched its third generation mobile phone service. The UK’s first commercial 3G service was launched over a year ago by new entrant, Hutchison 3G (now simply ‘3’) but this is the first 3G voice service to be launched by an established mobile network provider.

The main advantage of the 3G network is that it offers far greater bandwidth than the current second generation network. This means that mobile phones can send and receive a far greater amount of data, allowing service providers to offer advanced services. The company will sell its 3G products as part of its existing Vodafone Live! brand which highlights the features and benefits of mobile products rather than focusing on the underlying technology as the key marketing message.

A choice of six 3G handsets are available from launch and Vodafone is offering a range of services as part of the package, including video calls, video messaging, football highlights, news reports and movie previews. At present Vodafone’s 3G network covers just 60 per cent of the UK, and it is this point that commentators have recognised as the weak link in the company’s otherwise robust initial offering. Analysts released a joint comment on the launch which, while largely positive, was critical of Vodafone’s 3G coverage “We believe Vodafone may be taking an overly sanguine view of what people will be satisfied with. If the services offered by Live! 3G are really compelling, then people will want to be able to use them wherever they are.”

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