3G's killer application

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Remember those distant days when we imagined a golden age of 3G phones would mean person to person video calls to Australia, downloading the new Radiohead album on the bus, and e-mail on tap everywhere.

How naïve we were. For if research agency EMC World Cellular Data Metrics is to be believed the killer application for 3G is in fact, err Voice calls.

It seems that in an ‘unprecedented’ way 3G phone users are actually using their phones for the purpose they were originally designed for – making voice calls.

‘Despite the hype surrounding its new data services, traditional voice calling remains the principal revenue earner for Hutchison 3G’ owners of Europe’s’ largest 3G network 3, states the report.

‘3’s aggressive strategy may have been successful in terms of subscriber recruitment, but it remains to be seen whether these new customers will ultimately turn out to be heavy data users,’ it concludes.

In the UK at least, if 3 maintains its current levels of growth (there’s whispers of three million subscribers by April next year), it could well become the largest phone networks within a year or two. How many of these admittedly very price-conscious users, gravitate towards the data facilities like video downloads is another matter.

Encouragingly for 3 the report does acknowledge that 3 has the best ARPU (average revenue per user) in both of its key markets the UK and Italy. The trick though for 3 will be getting more of its users to experiment with advanced data services such as video calling. Tough.

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