Vodafone to Offer 3G This Month, But Data Only
By Eric Lin, Tue Dec 09 21:30:00 GMT 2003

To meet their required deadlines, Vodafone will be launching 3G services in Italy and Germany before year's end. Instead of launching handsets, Vodafone will only launch data services using PC Card modems.

The BBC article says that Vodafone plans to launch handsets and voice services eventually, but that sufficient phones are not available from NEC or other manufacturers as of yet.

Vodafone are just calling this a trial or soft launch. It's not clear if that is because they still doubt their network's stability, or they fear calling it a full launch without services. Launching as a data-only service could be a scary prospect for a mobile operator since most their revenue still comes from voice calls. However there are carriers that have launched as high speed data only services, such as Monet Wireless. In Monet's case the service is designed to provide high speed internet access where no broadband is available otherwise.

Since Germany and Italy most likely have broadband anywhere 3G data services will be available, the BBC puts a new spin on the service- it could compete with WiFi. In major cities, 3G coverage should be far better than what hotspots can offer. While they can't match WiFi for speed, they could more than make up for it in coverage.