Will X-Series Light the 3G Touchpaper?

It’s not long now until 3 starts selling its X-Series in the UK. Hidden among the usual bundling and partnerships fluff (eBay, Skype, etc.) is a rather quiet, yet potentially cataclysmic feature: X-Series will have flat-rate pricing.

So, after the glorious £4.3 billion they spent on their 3G license and the completely predictable failure of picture messaging and video calls after that; the lying to the City about their churn, and having to rely on voice and text rates just to keep afloat – it’s finally come this. The one thing that anyone who has ever used a mobile handset to access the net could have told them from the day they hit the market: un-metered charging.

All we need now is to know how much it’s going to be.

A sensible price for flat-rate mobile access to an un-encumbered Internet will attract people like flies now that handsets are finally beginning to live up to the hype. 3G (and now “3.5G”) is and always was a good technology that simply needed a sensible execution to bring to to prime time. Perhaps X-Series will do it?

On the evidence of past performance though, 3 are about as likely to get the price point right as they were predicting that East Enders and football goals would glue a nation to their chubby little bricks. I’m thinking they will plump for around £50-£100 a month – and if so it will be another disaster for them.

I sense the market is hanging there ready to burst upon any provider that can get this right. There is a lot of interest in things like mobile gaming, location-based services and collaborative systems out there (just recall the first wave with WAP). There are lots of people like me who would jump at the chance of designing such systems, and just as many who would build them. But every time punters dabble with 3G “services” they soon drop them like a stone when they’ve used up their allowances or see their next bill.

So 3, if you’re reading this: ask Cliff Stanford about the power of the monthly tenner and you WILL see some action.