3G carriers are lining up competing datacard offerings for business this month.
Orange is launching a promotional roadshow today focussing on its coverage, T-Mobile International is promoting a service which combines Wi-Fi and cellular data, and Vodafone Group - the first on the scene - is pushing ahead with trials for a handset it plans to launch this autumn. An exception is Hutchison 3G UK, with its consumer-focussed services.
Orange will be making much of the fact that, reaching 66% of the UK population, its 3G network has the best coverage.
During September will run a series of seminars at major cities.
"We will reach 80% of the population next year, and have been having good feedback from customers," said an Orange spokesman.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile's main selling point is the fact that users get their 3G/GSM and Wi-Fi all on one bill.
"We saw that wireless Lan could become a competitive element, and decided it would be better to participate in the market and make it complementary," said Jay Saw, hotspot manager of T-Mobile UK.
"We own and operate our own Wi-Fi network, and are the largest Wi-Fi operator in the Western hemisphere. We can use wireless Lan as a key differentiator for a multi-access pitch against the likes of Vodafone and Orange."
In the US, a third of T-Mobile's mobile subscribers also take the WLan service, and he expects that to be repeated in the UK.
"A lot of IT mangers buying telecoms are having difficulty marrying up Wi-Fi and 3G. We're trying to take away the pain of that decision."
On coverage, Lampton believes T-Mobile is not trailing far.
"We are very aware of what our competitors are doing," he said. "You can be sure that our coverage is going to be on a par with them."
Meanwhile, Vodafone is preparing to follow up its data-card service, launched in April and reviewed here, with a handset service, currently on trial with a few thousand customers in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
Handsets are still a sore point with carriers blaming poor quality for delays to their services.
All three datacard contenders cost around £75 a month, for almost unlimited use. T-Mobile's £70 deal costs has a fair usage limit of 3,000 minutes per month, while Orange and Vodafone have a usage limit of 1,000MBytes, for £75 and £85 respectively.
And Hutchison 3G, which has reached its target of a million users some months late, has still made a loss of more than a billion dollars in the first half of 2004.
While the company said it is on target, commentators point out a flaw in its progress so far. Despite 3G's focus on data services, 3's customers are not picking them up - only about 14% of 3's revenues come from data, which is actually lower than providers who are relying on earlier technologies.
Peter Judge writes for Techworld.com