BT has selected the Isle of Man as its test bed for rolling out third generation (3G) mobile services.
Manx Telecom, a BT subsidiary, said today it would have a universal mobile telecoms service (UMTS) up and running early next year on the 73,100-inhabitant island.
Analysts said the project would provide a good test-bed for BT's 3G systems. It will also place BT among the first operators in Europe to have working 3G networks in place.
Dan Ridsdale, telecoms analyst for Ovum, said: "It is obviously just a trial. It may not be commercially viable, but the lessons from the rollout will help BT work out the real cost and how many people use the services.
"Getting it up and running early could save them money on a larger scale as they can avoid mistakes."
A BT spokesperson said it would "help with any teething problems".
Manx will partner with mobile handset and network suppliers NEC and Siemens. NEC will provide the base station, air interfaces and terminal devices, and Siemens will be responsible for the provision of core switching technology.
Work has already begun on the network, and Manx plans to develop applications which include giving users access to email and the internet via mobile handsets, and allowing the development of multimedia ecommerce opportunities, including offshore purchasing and banking.
Steve Andrews, BT director of European alliances and board director of Manx, said that the island is the "ideal location for BT and its partners to demonstrate the real commercial value of 3GM applications and technology. It offers a high level of financial services activity, the ability to focus development in a small geography and the commitment of the Isle of Man government to encourage this development".
Henry Harrison, senior consultant for telecoms consultancy Schema, said: "The Isle of Man was chosen for the first ADSL trial. An island with a small population reduces the danger in launching any commercial service as demand is more likely to be satisfied."
In the UK, BT is battling with 12 other interested parties for one of five 3G mobile licences. Bidding started earlier this week and BT is joint highest bidder so far, along with Vodafone. Both parties have bid £299,500.
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