3 Scrambles to Justify Poor Numbers
By Eric Lin, Tue Dec 16 22:15:00 GMT 2003

3 recently announced they have fallen short of their original goal of reaching 1 million subscribers by the end of 2003. Now scrambling to defend the slow uptake, 3 have provided a variety of excuses- some poor, and some simply honest.

Since launch, 3 managed to add 210,000 subscribers in the UK and 660,000 worldwide according to Mobile Tracker. Either figure is significantly short of their goal of 1 million, but if that number was their goal for the UK alone, then it is severely disappointing. Either way 3 are scrambling to justify their poor performance to the punters.

In a BBC article, a 3 spokesperson blamed a few factors. The 3 representative placed some of the blame on handset shortages. 3 suffered, and still does, from a very limited selection of 3G capable handsets. However they still have phones on the shelves. It is not just the handsets alone, but shoppers' reactions to them: they are often considered big, ugly and bewildering.

Even more bewildering is that the 3 spokesperson also blames the low numbers on a lack of competition. Obviously one can blame poor results on a flooded market with too many choices for too few customers. But 3 takes a rather novel approach saying that competition will produce more demand for their product. 3 could have seen a small benefit from competitions' advertising producing more awareness of 3G than Hutchinson could do alone. This may have created more 3G users, but 3 would have had to split their numbers with other carriers, so it is unlikely 3 would have seen any better results.

In the Sunday Times, 3's Chief Operating Officer has a more realistic answer. The Times article is trapped behind a pay wall, but 3G Newsroom quotes it extensively. Quite simply, COO Gareth Jones believes 3's numbers are so poor because their services are not compelling yet. He cites alerts for English Premiership League Football as an example. Complaining that the current alerts "bore the shit out of me," he wonders why subscribers aren't sent video clips of the goals and the crowds' and players' reactions instead of an alert.

3 obviously have a great deal of work to do this year if they're going to attract new subscribers, let alone their own executive staff. What else you would encourage them to improve, or how would you suggest they take advantage of 3G's new abilities?