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The Isle of Man: A Working Lab for 3G Wireless
Posted: 17-Jan-2001 [Source: Business Week Online]

[Upcoming UMTS service to target business and youth with new applications, simplified billing, and inexpensive handsets. ]

"After the billions of dollars telecommunications companies spent in Europe to win licenses to offer next-generation cellular-phone service, the question now is: Will they make money? For most networks, that answer lies a few years down the road, but BT Manx, the Isle of Man telecommunications subsidiary of British Telecom, hopes to have an answer this spring.

"That's when BT Manx goes live with Europe's first -- and, it hopes, the world's first -- UMTS network. UMTS, or universal mobile telecommunications system, is the third generation of mobile telecom services and promises high-speed data-transmission capabilities to enable users to have full Internet access, view full-motion video, and download music onto a handset or a personal digital assistant -- as well as simply make a phone call. The infrastructure, being provided by a joint venture of Germany's Siemens and Japan's NEC, is largely in place.

"The project will make the tiny Isle of Man (population 75,000) an important test case in world telecommunications. "BT hopes to make real money in the large markets, and the island will give an indication of what people will use," says BT Manx Project Director Mark Briers. "We're taking the lab to the field and serving real customers. And anything we give them that takes a day off their launch time is money in the pocket."

"SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE. BT hopes that what it learns in the Isle of Man project will help it get its money's worth out of the many other UMTS projects it has around the world. The company has UTMS licenses or holdings in licenses in Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and Spain. The stakes involved are huge: Its British license alone cost $6 billion.


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