updated 12:05 pm EDT, Thu April 17, 2008
O2 1.8Mb and Irish iPhone
Wireless carrier O2's UK division today announced a 3.5G-based mobile broadband service for PCs that it hopes will improve over existing, slower 3G service. Unlike its existing UMTS offering, which tops at 384Kbps, the new service is based on HSDPA and allows downloads through notebooks as quick as 1.8Mbps, with the promise of 3.6Mbps service after a network upgrade in June.
The service initially launches with a USB modem and an accompanying computer-based data plan. Normal service costs £20 per month and offers 3GB of transfer per month, with 20p for each megabyte past the limit; the modem is available by itself for free with an 18-month contract or for £120 when contract-free. These lower rates only apply to current O2 customers and are increased to £30 for customers who aren't already subscribers to an existing O2 service.
O2's move brings it closer to parity with rival British carriers such as Vodafone, which are already offering faster 3.5G service for computers in some parts of the country. The provider already offers HSDPA cellular access for phones in portions of the UK but hasn't normally served computers or reached the 3.6Mbps peak speed used in most territories.
Simultaneously, a spokesperson for the company's Irish division has dismissed pressure to reduce the price for the 2G-based iPhone in the country. O2 Ireland "currently has no plans" to mirror a £100 promotional discount in effect in the UK and says that it will continue to sell the 8GB device at its €399 asking price. The spokesperson hasn't defended the decision but notes that it will continue to monitor pricing on "an ongoing basis."
The discounts, which are echoed in Germany, are widely believed to be an effort to clear excess stock and potentially point to new models.