3 is 5
An anniversary that almost passed us
by - today is the 5th anniversary of the UK's first
3G network - 3 - opening
3's launch wasn't as smooth as it had
hoped - a chronic lack of 3G handsets meant that customers
had to wait to get their hands on devices, and
shortages continued throughout 3's first year of operation.
Early 3G phones were bulky and suffered
from poor battery life. Most early adopters weren't
at all interested in video calling or streaming media,
instead they mostly wanted to take advantage of 3's
very cheap tariffs.
Although 3G phones are now very common,
the initial three 3 handsets were a very varied bunch
that were certainly ahead of their time.. perhaps a
little too far ahead of their time.
The NEC E808 featured a QWERTY
keyboard and an email client, the Motorola A925
had a touchscreen, expandable memory and GPS, and
the NEC E606 tried very hard to be a conventional
clamshell - albeit one with video calling and 3G support.
It turns out that none of these handsets were particularly
successful, and not just because of supply shortages.
The A925 and E808 tried to do too much, and did it not
very well. The E606 sold a little better, but 3
finally had some more success with the NEC
E616 and Motorola
Five years on, and manufacturers and
networks are still trying to perfect 3G
devices. And stubbornly, customers still rarely make
video calls and avoid media downloads because of
costs. It's not that the technology isn't up to it,
but data costs can still be prohibitive. That's not
entirely the fault of the networks - between them they
shelled out a staggering £23 billion for 3G licences
in the UK, and those expensive start up costs are still
having an impact on consumers today.