Vodafone, Ireland's leading mobile phone operator, today opened Ireland's first third generation network and made the country's first commercial 3G call. The 3G service, which is initially being opened to a number of key business partners, provides superior data speeds of up to 144kbps, which will enable faster downloads and enhanced voice capacity.
To begin with, Vodafone is making its 3G service available to a number of key customers, representing a wide geographic spread across the provinces. These customers have been selected as early users of the new technology, and will feedback their experiences with regard to coverage, 3G - 2G interworking, and speed of data downloads. They will be equipped with a limited number of Nokia 6650 handsets. As larger volumes of handsets become available, Vodafone intends to make its 3G service available to all customers with a new range of services. These new services will also work satisfactorily in Vodafone's current 2.5G (GPRS) environment.
The company has over one-third 3G population coverage, in all of the main urban centres and beyond. Areas covered include: Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford as well as Athlone, Bray, Carlow, Castlebar, Drogheda, Dundalk, Ennis, Kilkenny, Killarney, Letterkenny, Limerick, Mullingar, Naas, Navan, Newbridge, Portlaoise, Sligo, Tralee and Wexford. The 2nd phase of network roll-out has commenced and the company will regularly update customers on its coverage progress.
Making the first 3G commercial call early today, Paul Donovan, CEO, Vodafone Ireland said, "Today, is an important milestone in the evolution of mobile services in Ireland and it is fitting that as market leader Vodafone is first to market with a commercial 3G network. This is a long-term investment for Vodafone, which will see us investing several hundred million over the next few years.
"While our network is open to users, at this juncture making the service available to key partners, enabling them to rigorously test the new service and feedback their experiences, is what makes the most commercial sense - both for us and our customers.
"Given the early stage that 3G technology is at, including ongoing issues surrounding availability of handsets, we are opening our network with a limited number of Nokia 6650 handsets. We expect further handsets to become available later on this year and throughout 2004. Mass-market demand for 3G services is expected in 18 months to two years time.
"As 3G technology evolves, Vodafone Ireland will be at the forefront of its development and we plan to offer our customers compelling and highly competitive voice, multimedia and mobile video services, leveraging the global scale and purchasing power of the Vodafone Group. The experiences we have gained from the launch of our Vodafone live! service have provided fundamental learnings for our 3G planning. Great products and propositions that are customer-centric will engage our customers and drive usage. The penetration of live! handsets and the usage of live! services (over 1 million MMS sent since launch) presents a promising picture of what lies ahead."
Vodafone today also publicised details of its 3G tariffs, which mirror the options already available to its GSM and GPRS customers. The full range of Vodafone's tariffs are available on www.vodafone.ie