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Thursday, November 16, 2006

3 finally "gets it" and launches flat-rate ISP-style mobile broadband (and Skype)

Blogger binned my first post, so this is a very quick "hooray!" to 3 for launching a broadband flatrate ISP-style mobile offering, complete with optimised versions of Skype, Sling, Yahoo & MSN.

Given that I heard the 3 CTO stand up a few years back and denounce anyone who "wanted Internet access on their mobile phone", as a way of defending its prior ridiculous walled-garden-only policy, I think this is a great move.

"This charging structure overturns the traditional telephony model of charging per minute, per message, per click, per event and per megabyte"

"Customers in the future will be attracted by greater and greater choice, and higher and higher usage levels, for fair, attractive and transparent access fees."

"Sending and receiving text instant messages with an X-Series mobile will be free"

"Skype to Skype calls on a 3 mobile will be free"

Basically, this looks like it is starting where T-Mobile's pretty decent Web'n'Walk leaves off. The customised Skype & Sling functionality looks particularly smart. 3 has recognised that there is a sizeable market of ADSL/cable-educated people who want a good quality pipe, with a couple of optimisations to take account of handset form factor. Not trying to do something idiotic like creating an own-brand IM is a sign of real-world Internet-savvy maturity that many operators would do well to embrace.

The split-tariff flat rate (depending on whether people use video or not) seems like a sensible compromise between user expectations of a broadband service, married to the practical considerations of resource-constrained radio spectrum capacity and backhaul from cell sites.

Sure, there's still a bunch of questions - can you download other 3rd-party Internet clients for VoIP or messaging or mapping? Is the 3 Skype actually VoIPo3G, or just a normal circuit call into a gateway? What happens with "rich" web browsing like YouTube, MySpace and various Flash/AJAX type things? Roaming? Is any/all of this IMS-based, or if not what else is sitting in the 3 network?

But overall - this looks like a proper Internet-on-mobile proposition. At first glance, and obviously depending on the pricing & the fine details, it gets top marks.

I'm off to the launch event, which involves an expedition to Hutchison's painfully-inaccessible offices in the wilds of Battersea.

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