Where’s My 3G, Man?
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