Having opened up its UMTS network for the first trial using this technology with the Vodafone Mobile Connect Card in December 2003, and after the rollout of its PC Data Card in February 2004, Vodafone is now also able to offer its Italian customers the new Vodafone Live! handsets for UMTS.
Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Italia's CEO, emphasised how "this next stage makes Vodafone Italia the first operator in our country to make such extensive use of the new technology to rollout such a complete range of services. The quality of the handsets we can now offer the market finally represents an improvement on the already excellent technology and services so far provided by Vodafone Live!'s GSM/GPRS platform. I feel certain that our customers will appreciate this new step towards personal multimedia communications, for which the entire industry has worked so hard."
Vodafone Italia's UMTS is an enhanced version of the existing Vodafone live! offering: from today all the commercial services, already available on GSM/GPRS, will be accessible via the 3G network too, thanks to handsets providing greater quality and reliability than the models previously available.
By launching the new business and consumer offerings on such a wide scale, Vodafone will be the first in Italy to offer its customers an integrated GSM/UMTS service, thus enabling them to use the two technologies to obtain the best possible quality in any situation and the best performances for both voice traffic and multimedia services.
Vodafone's offering is being launched with two handsets: the first, which is exclusive to Vodafone, is the Samsung Z105, whilst the new Sony Ericsson Z1010 will be available in the near future.
Thanks to the potential offered by the new UMTS handsets with integrated video cameras, customers can make video calls to all 3G phones, simply by pressing the video call key, and, with the same ease, receive such calls from other users.
The video call service is on offer until September 30, 2004 at the same cost as a normal voice call (according to the customer's chosen price plan).
The portfolio of new UMTS services includes actual TV channels: from the home page of the Vodafone Live! menu users can directly access the Sole24Ore TV, Rainews24 and Coming Soon Television channels by clicking on the new Live!TV icon. Other entertainment and international news channels will shortly be available thanks to agreements currently being finalised.
The Video area offers a broad range of programming: the news from TG5, the latest updates from the press agency, ANSA, and ANSA's Economics channel, ANSA Sport, highlights of each stage of the Giro d'Italia, a library of video highlights of Serie A and Serie B championship matches, All about the world Ferrari, news from Studio Sport, Music Star, Movie Star, music tracks from Hit Parade, highlights from the programme, Lucignolo, sketches from Zelig, Travel programmes from Marco Polo and film trailers.
From June, Vodafone's UMTS phones will enable users to follow the TV music programme, Festivalbar, and Vasco Rossi's latest tour with video highlights of the various concerts.
By calling the 190 service, calls from UMTS handsets are automatically transferred to a dedicated call centre staffed by personnel specially trained in the latest generation services and providing round the clock assistance and information.
The quality of UMTS services is represented not only by the speed with which video files can be downloaded but also by the excellent quality of both audio and voice. UMTS can handle longer video files, whilst the UMTS and GPRS networks are automatically interchangeable depending on the area of coverage. Thanks to dual-mode radio capability, Vodafone can always guarantee customers a seamless handover to the network providing the best available coverage.
Vodafone Italia now offers UMTS coverage in 140 cities, representing 30% of the country's population.
The commercial launch of the Vodafone Mobile Connect Card UMTS for the transmission of data from portable PCs took place on February 12, 2004 in Italy, Germany, Spain, the UK, Portugal, Sweden and Holland.
From April 1, 2004 Vodafone Italia customers have had access to UMTS roaming for both voice and data services in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden and over the coming weeks in Ireland, Greece, Japan and Belgium.
In all these countries, except from France, International video calls are being tested and will shortly be available to all Vodafone's UMTS customers.