10/22/2008 11:10:00 AM
3 prepay back for Christmas after launch of INQ
3’s parent company, Hutchison Whampoa, has launched a new handset manufacturing company called INQ, and will put its first phone on 3 next month.
It will mark 3’s return to the prepay market and serve as the catalyst to help double its subscriber base.
UK CEO Kevin Russell has gone to great lengths to reposition 3 as a mobile data provision company. He will be buoyed up by the arrival of handsets geared around instant messaging, Facebook and email.
3 has lost momentum in the growth of its subscriber base, despite a surge of mobile broadband customers. Its numbers have gradually increased from four million to 4.7 million over the last 18 months.
The first handsets from 3’s standalone sister company, INQ, under the Hutchison Whampoa umbrella, will appear next month, believed to be priced between £50 and £80. A further five handsets will be launched throughout 2009.
3 has avoided the prepay market since having its fingers burned in 2005 when its highly subsidised handsets were targeted by box breakers.
More recently, the operator withdrew its offer of the Sony Ericsson K505 for £50 after an increase in box breaking.
The first INQ handsets will appear in 3’s stores and will then move on to independent retailers.
What is INQ?
Hutchison Whampoa has created a handset manufacturing company led by 3’s former group handset chief.
The idea came after Hutchison developed the Skypephone. Hutchison wants to make a range of mass market handsets built around data services and has total ownership of the INQ hardware, user interface and brand.
The intention behind INQ is to penetrate emerging markets, and sell the handsets to operators around the world, as well as to its own businesses.
Hutchison expects demand to be high given its focus on devices that appeal to customers interested in more than voice and text.
INQ (pronounced ‘ink’ and a contraction of ‘inquire’) will focus on fast and simple access to data services. The company is headed up by Hutchison veteran and former group handset chief Frank Meehan.