UK 3G market set for shake up

People in the UK prefer computer access to mobile access when surfing the web, but Google is out to change that, stated research firm, eMarketer. 3G penetration in the UK is low but two changes will help: lower prices, and built in 3G technology in phones.

Google will charge Americans £97 for the T-Mobile G1 handset, but the phone will be free in the UK for anyone that signs up to a £40 a month contract. Analysts at eMarketer said that the mobile internet will not catch on in the UK until more handsets incorporate 3G technology.

John du Pre Gauntt, eMarketer senior analyst who specialises in the mobile market, commented: “With Google’s Android software open source, Google is hoping programmers will develop ‘cool’ applications and it is also hoping that the launch of its new phone will give the UK’s mobile Internet market a major boost.”

3G penetration did not grow because of the arrival in November 2007 of Apple’s iPhone, which uses a non-3G technology and is expensive at £269. And, however attractive the iPhone, it did not achieve its initial UK sales target, commented eMarketer.

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) found that just 16% of mobile users had accessed the internet via mobile phone in the third quarter of 2007. The Office for National Statistics agrees that fewer than one in five UK adults used a mobile phone to go online in 2007.

But despite mobile operators’ efforts to promote it to their subscribers, 3G does not have a sufficient share of mobile connections to drive the market forward. According to Ofcom, there were fewer than thirteen 3G connections for every 100 UK residents at the end of 2006; just 11% of all mobile connections. Although 3G penetration is increasing, it has not triggered widespread consumer interest in Web-based mobile services, added eMarketer.

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