Vodafone UK unleashes 3G/GPRS datacard

LONDON (04/02/2004) - Vodafone Group PLC Friday launched its 3G data-only services and datacard, offering maximum download speeds of 384kbps and a top rate upload speed of 64kbs.

Realistically that means typical download speeds of between 200 and 300kbps.

The Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS plugs into a laptop and is available now through the mobile operator's 64 Vodafone Retail stores.

The card ranges in price from £50 (US$93) to £180 (without VAT), depending on which of the four tariff options you sign up to. Subscribers to the entry-level £10 per month tariff are allowed a maximum of 5MB of information per month, while a so called "medium user" will pay £20 per month for a maximum of 25MB per month and a "high user" will part with £45 per month for up to 150MB per month. High end 'power users' pay £85 a month, which gives them a maximum of 500MB per month.

According to the company an average user will download around 25MB per month, attracted to the monthly £20 sweet spot. Vodafone is comparing the jump from GPRS to 3G with the speed gains achieved by moving from narrowband to broadband. By the summer Vodafone is also promising a three mode card with Wi-Fi capability.

Currently the Vodafone 3G network is available to around 30 percent of the U.K. population, primarily London, the Thames Valley, the M25 and areas of major urban conurbation, according to the company. The plan is to expand this figure to 50 percent by the autumn.

Outside these areas the card will operate on GPRS and Vodafone claims the handover will be seamless.

The product comes in two main flavors. The Internet Access version is aimed a smaller businesses and offers mobile access to the internet and standard POP3 email accounts.

The Remote Access version offers connections to corporate networks and is only available through its business reseller channel.

The company is hoping to announce a 3G phone by mid summer, which will also double as a 3G modem. A consumer version of 3G is in the pipeline via its Vodafone Live! service, with a soft launch over the summer prior to an official blitz in the autumn.

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