Christmas starts early for 3 …

3 is reportedly planning a Christmas push which includes new tariffs and services – and a chain of retail outlets, with “up to 20” new stores.  They will be located primarily in big shopping malls,
with Lakeside in Essex and Bluewater in Kent mentioned. 3’s chief operating officer Gareth Jones was quoted as saying “ I don’t think you are going to see us in every high street in the land”.

3 currently sells through some Superdrug outlets (Superdrug is also owned by Hutchison) as well as independents – notably Carphone Warehouse.

The middle-term aim is a stock market flotation, probably sometime next year, and for that to work the network has to break even in FY2005.

An active Christmas would certainly help that, and it’s noticeable that 3 has also been beefing up its 3G offer recently – especially in music content. It has just signed a deal with EMI Music to offer full-length audio downloads of new releases and back catalogue material; and it seems to be doing well with its existing Video Jukebox. That delivers full-length music videos from Sony BMG and independent-artists agency VidZone.

3 was the first mobile network to launch full-length music videos over mobile – in August 2004 – and over 10m were downloaded in the first six months of the Jukebox’s existence.

Vodafone’s Christmas buzz is a 3G mobile TV service in time for Christmas to try and attract more British customers on to its 3G service. Vodafone Germany already has a service with four live channels – CNN, Eurosport, Fashion TV and weather – and it is likely that UK viewers will get a similar mix.

Chief executive Arun Sarin has also been hinting a price cuts on 3G handsets, telling financial journalists that “customers in the UK would prefer our 3G handset prices to fall a bit further before they are willing to buy “. He foresaw price cuts “towards the back end of the year”.

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