Richard Branson's Virgin empire plans to roll out a mobile phone offering later this year and has confirmed it is already looking at a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) license.
UMTS is part of a global family of "third generation" mobile communications systems that is expected to play a key role in creating mass market wireless multimedia.
It will provide broadband information, commerce and entertainment services to mobile users via fixed, wireless and satellite networks. UMTS is expected to offer data rates of 2Mbps with global roaming.
"UMTS provides lots of opportunities and is definitely something we are looking at, especially in the areas of ecommerce and multimedia," a Virgin spokesperson said.
Virgin is launching its mobile telephone offering, code named project Natter, in a 50/50 partnership with One 2 One on the back of a £100 million investment. Virgin mobile will represent the fifth mobile network.
"One 2 One will provide the technical expertise and Virgin the marketing and branding," explained the Virgin spokesperson. "As far as the public are concerned, however, it will be a Virgin product - they will not see another name mentioned."
Virgin confirmed that it will exploit the synergies it has with its other brand, including Internet access, downloading music and rail and airline bookings.
Tom Alexander, the new managing director of Virgin Mobile, formerly deputy commercial director at Cellnet, is speaking at Global Mobile Carriers 99 this autumn in Amsterdam and will make a business case for a UMTS license. "I cannot comment further on this, the deadline for UMTS licenses is not here yet and we have no policy as yet," commented the Virgin spokesperson.
UMTS will launch commercially in 2002. UMTS licenses are starting to be awarded in some European countries.
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