Hutchison debuts mobile broadband, eyes music service

In a move that should spur more competition among the wireless Internet providers, Hutchison Telecommunications has today unveiled its mobile broadband offering.

The mobile broadband network can be accessed with a notebook using the 3 mobile Internet NetConnect card and data transfer speeds are 384Kbps download and 64Kbps upload in 3’s video zones. The card also supports GPRS for areas outside of 3’s video zones.

Hutchison’s communication devices project manager, Patrick Shallvey, said there is a need for such a service due to the slow data rates provided by GPRS.

“You won’t get much more than 40Kbps with GPRS,” Shallvey said. “With the NetConnect card customers can get broadband Internet speeds without having to look for a Wi-Fi hotspot.”

Shallvey said the 3 mobile Internet NetConnect card was jointly developed by Lucent Technologies and Novatel Wireless, and although drivers for Windows XP and Windows 2000 come with it, Mac drivers will be considered “subject to demand”.

“The service is very easy to use and comes with a simple GUI for accessing the Internet or SMS,” he said. “Although the 3 network already does data encryption, the NetConnect card is compatible with most corporate VPNs, such as Citrix, for even more security.”

Available now, the mobile Internet NetConnect card is priced at $588 up front with no connection fee or $49 per month, for 12 months, plus a $50 connection fee. In addition to a number of usage plans ranging from $10 to $150 per month there is also a flat rate of 0.4 cents per kilobyte available, according to the company.

When asked how 3’s service compares with other mobile broadband data services such as iBurst, Shallvey said: “iBurst has a service in Sydney that doesn’t cover the whole city so we don’t consider it to be a competitor.”

Shallvey said although the service is positioned as data-only, the company has carried voice and video over IP which “worked fine”.

With Hutchison now operating a mobile broadband data service, the company hinted at offering an online music delivery service as part of its content portfolio.

Hutchison’s general manager of marketing, Peter Burr, said the company has had discussions with “anyone who is a key player in the music space”.

“We’re likely to see music [being offered] in the next few months,” Burr said. “It’s an evolutionary thing.”

Burr did not comment on how such a service would be delivered only to say that the company is looking into managing potential piracy issues.

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