LONDON (04/02/2004) - Vodafone Group PLC has launched its data-only 3G service in the U.K., with an introductory offer that multiplies users' monthly data limit by two, giving data junkies up to a Gigabyte of download per month for £85 (US$158). The phoneless, data-orientated service is otherwise much as predicted.
The Vodafone service offers up to 384 kbit/s downstream and 64 kbit/s upstream, using a data card that will sell for £180 in retail shops. The monthly cost ranges from £10 per month for a "low user" to £85 per month for a "power user". The differentiation of the services is in the amount of data that can be downloaded without a surcharge. For the next six months, low users can transfer up to ten megabytes per month, while power users can have a whole gigabyte. In October the "real" pricing kicks in, and those figures are halved.
The 3G service will initially only cover 30 percent of the U.K. population -- those in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Belfast, Cardiff, Leicester, Nottingham, Southampton and Portsmouth, as well as the M25 and the M4. However, Vodafone claims is more like 40 percent of the U.K.'s current data traffic.
Outside that area, the card will operate on GPRS -- and Vodafone promises the handover will be seamless. The company has promised to bring the 3G coverage creeping up over the year, reaching half the population by the end of 2004.
There are two versions of the service. Internet Access, intended for personal and small business use, connects you to public web services, while Remote Access, sold by Vodafone's business channels, is aimed at hooking users up to their own corporate networks.