3 is making a return to the prepay market in 2009, as more handsets become available for under $100, internationally.
The move follows the operator’s successful prepay INQ and Skype handsets in 2008, and the growing number of its customers using internet services such as Facebook.
3 is expected to release the first handsets into UK stores over the coming months, priced between £50 and £80. The INQ handset is currently £79.99.
3's sales and marketing director, Marc Allera, said: ‘We are seeing very encouraging figures that mobile internet has taken off on handsets, as we focus on giving the customer a great experience. For example, 65% of INQ customers use Facebook.’
A 3 spokesman said: ‘3G equipment – dongles and handsets – is becoming cheaper and more effective. You can maintain your margin while passing on savings to the consumer.’
In the past, 3 said 3G handsets were too expensive to have on prepay tariffs.