Where’s My 3G, Man?

mmO2 plc has pulled the plug on Europe’s first live 3G network based on the Isle of Man, less than two and a half years after service launch.

The carrier has shut down its UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) service on the island, claiming that the network was only ever intended to be a “pilot” service to test early 3G networks. [Ed. note: The Isle of Man is a tiny island off the west coast of Britain, home to 76,000 residents, a breed of tailless cat, and very little else.]

“It was never intended to be a commercial service,” comments Simon Gordon, press relations manager. “It was first-generation 3G technology and allowed us to really get an understanding of how 3G works -- how the network behaves and the sort of applications users might want.” [Ed. note: First-generation third-generation technology? My head is exploding!]

Launched in December 2001, the network was built using infrastructure kit from NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) and offered a variety of multimedia services aimed at gauging customer demand for high-speed data applications.

Despite mmO2’s insistence that the network was only a test project for “less than 200” users, analysts have been taken aback by its decision to close down the entire service.

“My immediate reaction was of surprise,” says IDC’s Paolo Pescatore. “They haven’t announced it publicly, and clearly not many people know about it. They haven’t issued a statement on this, which makes me think they have tried to cover it up slightly.”

“I visited the island last year and was really surprised to find it wasn’t a full commercial network,” notes Gartner Inc.’s Jason Chapman. “It’s a bit of a bizarre setup.”

According to mmO2’s Gordon, users of the 3G service will be moved over to the island’s slower GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network that has been recently activated (see Lucent Optimizes O2).

Gordon is keen to stress that the shutdown will not affect the carrier’s future plans for 3G rollout. “The Isle of Man will now be included as part of our overall U.K. 3G deployment and will probably come online early next year. Nokia and Nortel will be our primary suppliers throughout Europe.”

UMTS is the 3G upgrade to the GSM standard, using a wideband-CDMA air interface on top of the GSM core network to increase voice capacity and boost data-transfer speeds to a theoretical 2 Mbit/s.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

suvan 12/5/2012 | 2:01:54 AM
re: Where’s My 3G, Man? Although the Isle of Man is situated in the heart of the British Isles, it is an internally self-governing dependent territory that is not part of the United Kingdom or, increasingly important, the European Union.

Thus it is not subject to the laws and diktats of London, unless it so chooses, or any nonsense from Brussels in relation to, amongst other things:

Banking; and,

It is therefore an offshore haven for those for whom legislation could be considered to be a business encumbrance.

In short, a significant proportion of the 75000 or so who live there, more so those who visit on business perhaps are the 'high rollers' with, in theory, most to gain from access to 3G.

standardsarefun 12/5/2012 | 1:59:13 AM
re: Where’s My 3G, Man? Problem was the trial was so early in terms of stability of the 3GPP release 99 specs that all the terminals and network probably had to be junked to avoid anyone roaming from Isle of Man into a real 3G network.

Next step (in 5 years time?) will be some other vendor's gear being installed on the island...
lrmobile_justin 12/5/2012 | 1:58:47 AM
re: Where’s My 3G, Man? Sounds about right. mmO2 admit that the NEC/Siemens trial kit is now outdated and is of little use elsewhere. The scrapyard beckons.

Nokia and Nortel kit is expected to be deployed on the island later this year in time for a H1 2005 commercial launch.

Unstrung Justin

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