May launch for T-Mobile 3G voice and data

T-Mobile International will launch voice and data services based on third-generation technology in Germany, the UK and Austria...

T-Mobile International will launch voice and data services based on third-generation technology in Germany, the UK and Austria beginning in May, company chairman René Obermann announced at the Cebit trade show.

The company aims to be the first in Europe to offer customers 3G mobile data cards and handsets based on WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology.

Nokia will provide one of the phones.

Rival German operator Vodafone D2 launched a 3G mobile card earlier this year, and O2 Germany announced a 3G card on Wednesday at Cebit. Neither operator, however,  set a fixed date for the launch of 3G phones, which they say are still too big and consume too much energy.

Rival operators around Europe are closely watching operators in Germany - the continent's largest mobile phone market - as they roll out 3G services based on WCDMA technology. Their new services and fees could serve as benchmarks for the industry.

T-Mobile is also planning a multimedia network service, called TM3, which will offer customers three access technologies: 3G, GPRS and Wlan.

Customers can move between the three networks, depending on availability, for the same fee. Connection software in the device - whether it is a mobile phone, PDA or notebook - will select the best possible connection. The initial 3G speeds will be up to 384Kbps. 

T-Mobile will offer a wide range of both volume and time-based rates. For a monthly fee of €110, customers can transmit up to 500Mbytes, or, if they prefer a time-based fee, they can pay €35 for 600 minutes of online connectivity and €1.30 for each additional 10 minutes.

When T-Mobile launches its 3G service in Germany, the operator will cover 40% of the population, and expects to have 50% coverage by the end of this year.

The mobile operator plans to expand the number of Wlan hotspots worldwide from 5,000 at present to more than 15,000 over the coming months. Of the 5,000, more than 4,000 are in the US.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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