In a move to kick-start sluggish sales of its new mobile broadband service, Hutchison 3G UK Ltd. has introduced two new price packages that undercut voice service offers from rival operators by up to 50 percent.
From Monday, customers in the U.K. can choose between two new tariff bundles with 500 minutes and 750 minutes of voice calls to any network at any time for £25 (US$42) and £35 per month respectively, Hutchison, which operates under the "3" brand, said Thursday in a statement. In addition to the discounted voice service, the packages will include a £10 and £20 per month discount scheme for video calls, messages and clips transmitted over the operator's new 3G (third-generation) mobile broadband network. The discounts are valid for the first three months.
Both packages allow customers to send and read e-mail and view selected online content for free until the end of August, the Maidenhead, England, operator said.
Although 3, which is controlled by Hong Kong heavyweight Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., is the first to provide 3G service in the U.K., the operator has struggled to penetrate the country's fiercely competitive mobile phone market.
Whether the new tariffs will help is questionable.
"Quite honestly, I view the new fees as a joke," said Bena Roberts, an analyst with Current Analysis Inc. "Here is a 3G operator promoting bulk voice instead of new mobile broadband services. The move shows how desperate the company is to generate traffic over its network."
What new 3G operators need to show, according to Roberts , is how customers can benefit from high-speed mobile services and not from discounted voice minutes. Apart from sending the wrong signal to the market, the discounts will do little to improve the company's bottom line. "Hutchison needs to go down the 3G road and prove what they can really do," she said.
Established U.K. operators such as Vodafone Ltd., T-Mobile UK Ltd. and Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd. have chosen to delay commercial 3G service until they have resolved all major technical issues and have sufficient handsets.