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O2 UK – a data king with patchy 3G coverage

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Mobile operator O2 UK may be asserting its authority as the country’s data king by inking exclusivity deals with both Apple for the iPhone and Palm for the Pre, but 3G coverage maps released by the UK watchdog this week may take some of the wind out of its sails.

Ofcom said it released the maps as an intermediate step in establishing the UK operators’ compliance with their 3G rollout requirements, and was at pains to point out that the availability and quality of mobile coverage cannot be assumed from these maps.

Surely this makes them next to useless?

Interestingly, O2 appears to have the patchiest 3G coverage, with vast swathes of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the north of England, the Midlands, Norfolk and the south west, still without coverage, meaning those iPhones and palm Pres will only be useful in the major metropolitan areas of the UK.

Orange and 3 look to be duking it out for best coverage, but on the whole, all operators seem to have largely neglected Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the south west, Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Nevertheless, in the wake of the Palm Pre announcement, Michael Kovacocy, European telecoms analyst and sector strategist at Daiwa Securities, reckons Telefonica looks to be taking the lead in the key game of value extraction in the high end of the market.

In June, O2 Germany made the Android-based Samsung I7500 exclusively available, kicking off a “series of devices designed for the mobile web”.

“This bodes well for continued resiliency of operations in the face of the credit crunch, as the right smartphones such as the iPhone have proven their ability to support and deliver bottom-line financial results over the last year,” Kovacocy said.

UK 3G coverage maps

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Source: Ofcom


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