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Next generation wireless: Will users pay the price?

The prices customers pay for faster wireless bandwidth with next-generation data services will be the key to how fast those services are adopted.

That was the message from Manx Telecom, who is trialling 3G services on the Isle of Man.

Speaking at a US conference on wireless technologies sponsored by Invest-UK and the Massachusetts Telecommunications Council, managing director for Manx Telecoms Chris Hall said: "We're giving trial customers three months of next-generation services free, and after the first month presenting them with a total of their costs and asking: 'Is that value for your money?'"

Manx has 120 trial customers on the Isle of Man using mobiles that average 310K bit/sec of throughput - up to 20 times that of conventional phones. The phones run colour displays, enable Internet browsing, and offer downloading of e-mail and playing of real video. For business users, the phones can also serve as a virtual desktop for consulting e-mail and files wherever they travel on the island, Hall said.

Rather than divulge what Manx charges for e-mail downloads, Hall said the wireless carrier would digest customer responses to the monthly fees during the next few months.

In the US several carriers are rolling out faster networks based on next-generation packet-based switching technologies. Pricing is often based on what it costs to move a megabyte of data, with costs ranging from $2 (£1.37) per megabyte up to $7 (£4.80), said Phillip Redman, an analyst at Gartner. "Pricing is a leading inhibitor to the adoption of these services," he said.

Redman thought the speeds were enticing but he warned that users might not be prepared for how many megabytes they use. "I was surprised I could use 10 to 15Mbyte an hour, just looking at e-mail and surfing," Redman said.

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