UK to get business-orientated 3G network

Vodafone will begin trials of a data-only service in some areas, with a commercial launch in the spring.

Vodafone will begin trials of a data-only service in some areas, with a commercial launch in the spring.

This will be the country's first data-centric offering, and should be welcomed by businesses who want to do more than the major application.

The Vodafone service will, initially, cover urban areas such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, and the M4 motorway to Newbury.

Vodafone said this covers "30% of the UK's population", but added, it is a far cry from a national 3G network.

Vodafone's service will be based on data cards for laptops, rather than phones, like the 3G service launched in Germany and Italy in December. The cards transmit data up to 384kbps when a 3G service is available, and fall back to GPRS speeds at other times.

The trials will be held with a few large corporate customers, with smaller companies coming on board as the trial progresses.

The company's hesitation in launching a full-blown 3G service with voice-data-and-image handsets has been blamed on doubts about the market readiness and the existing quality of such handsets.

Peter Judge writes for Techworld.com

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