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3 X-Series Got it Right, Sort Of

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When the carrier 3 announced its X-Series efforts in the U.K. earlier this month, wireless enthusiasts saw it as a sign that the walled garden was finally coming down — though, the decision likely had as much to do with the company’s financial issues as any kind of revolution.

Today 3 announced the pricing of their X-Series service with two choices, 5 pounds ($10) or 10 pounds ($20) per month. While the company seems to have mostly stayed true to their low, flat fee, Internet-inspired intentions, they also added “fair use” guidelines — like a tiger, a carrier can’t really change its stripes.

The X-Series fair use guidelines:

  • – 5,000 Skype to Skype minutes per month.
  • – Windows Live Messenger: 10,000 messages per month
  • – 1GB per month for browsing
  • – Orb and Slingbox: 80 hours a month with X-Series Gold

3 says “where unfair use is apparent, 3 will take the appropriate measures on a case-by-case basis.” It seems like carriers still feel that truly unlimited is just not in their best business interests.

Beyond the fair use reminder, 3’s flat fee pricing is actually pretty compelling. The two packages are X-Series Silver at 5 pounds per month ($10) and X-Series Gold at 10 pounds ($20) per month (that’s not including the extra fees for voice and texting services.)

For X-Series Silver you get “unlimited” (within fair use) mobile web browsing/searching, “unlimited” Skype calls with Skype PC users and Skype 3 mobile customers, and “unlimited” instant messages, to or from Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger, to another X-Series cell phone, or a PC. (Update: The Skype service is based on the iSkoot solution.)

For X-Series Gold you get everything that silver gets, except you also get “unlimited” access to your TV with Slingbox and your PC with Orb. Currently both X-Series are only available on two handsets, the Nokia N73 and the Sony Ericsson W950i.

3’s X-Series services will be an interesting experiment to see if consumers will pay these somewhat reasonable fees for a more ideal mobile broadband experience. Other carriers could follow 3’s lead, or the low pricing and flat fee could just add to 3’s financial quandry.

9 Responses to “3 X-Series Got it Right, Sort Of”

  1. John Burton

    It says Skype PC users and other three skype users. Does this exclude skype-out? Quite a few of my skype contacts I call using skype-out so this would be worhtless to be if that doens’t work.

  2. 3 has also moved to address one of the big grumbles about roaming charges: from January 2007 there will be no international roaming voice call charges when using Skype on 3’s networks overseas.
    Still , there are a number of grumbles about 3’s announcements, including the fact that Skype drives most of us nuts on the fixed Internet and so is likely to be even worse on the mobile super hypeway and the jury’s out on Slingox’s performance until we’ve seen a demo.

    There is a fair use policy, although it seems reasonable, oh, and you can only sign up for six months’ minimum service and through 3’s high street stores. And why oh why will the handsets and service only be available AFTER Christmas and how soon will there by more.
    There is also the old adage that the definition of a pioneer is one who is found with the arrows in their back.
    Nevertheless, this move by 3 will strike fear into the hearts of all mobile operators who have fought so hard for so long against open Internet access for subscribers that would reduce them to bit pipe status. The distant rumble of tumbling bricks will get louder and operators must concentrate on how they can make the best of the situation instead of trying to shore the garden walls up. Their role as a payment mechanism is a terrific advantage, for starters, that they could put to greater and more profitable use, including attacking the growing and hugely damaging problem of revenue leakage. Perhaps they could use some of the redundant bricks?

  3. The VoIP strategy is interesting. 3 has a group partnership with Skype. But in Italy – it launched (over a year ago) its “own” VoIP service which offers calls around the world from EUR 0.05 per hour.
    In the UK, 3 also has a flat-rate international calling plan for GBP 15 per month. Its early days for VoIP on mobile and it seems that 3 might be using the Skype BUZZ to actually promote its own international low-cost calling plans.
    The tariffs for the X-series are good. But I don’t agree that 3 has torn the walled garden down. Its re-creating the walled garden with the look and feel of the open Internet.
    bena roberts