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Hutchison 3G prepares to launch UK service

Hutchison 3G UK is offering special discounts to the first 20,000 customers to pre-register for its mobile broadband service, scheduled for commercial launch in the coming weeks.

The promotional third-generation offers, which target heavy users, range from £59.99 per month to £99.99 per month for a "substantial" bundle of voice and video minutes, text, picture and video messages, e-mail and multimedia services, including a discount on the recommended retail price of a mobile phone.

However, H3G provided no detailed information about the bundled packages, such as the number of minutes or cost per minute for voice or video calls, for its 3G service, which is branded 3.

When asked what additional services customers receive with the £99.99 package compared with the £59.99 offering, company spokesman Edward Brewster said: "We aren't providing any details." However, he acknowledged that potential customers inquiring about the promotional offer would want to know this information.

By comparison, H3G in Italy, the subsidiary of Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa, offered a wealth of detail about its new 3G fees.

Its €85 (£54) a month Executive tariff, for instance, is an all-inclusive package that includes 10 hours of voice calls per week, 10 hours of video calls, 150 SMS (Short Messaging Service) text messages, 50 MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) messages, 100 e-mails (with attachments) and 100 content items, such as news and music, downloaded from the portal.

Nor is H3G in the UK saying exactly when it plans to launch commercial service, despite claiming on its Web site that the service will be available this year. "The roll-out is a latitude of weeks," Brewster said.

On H3G's www.three.co.uk Web site, the company is marketing three 3G handsets in conjunction with a contract: Motorola's A830 for £399, and NEC's e606 for £399 and its e808 for £499.

In October, Hutchison increased its initial order of one million 3G handsets from NEC to two million. The company is targeting around one million users in Italy and the UK.

Hutchison is also building 3G networks in Austria, Denmark and Sweden.

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