West Germany’s telecommunications operator Deutsche Bundespost Telekom, is to take the remaining 15% stake in the Unitel consortium that is bidding for a licence to set up a Personal Communications Network service in the UK – Unitel, which also comprises STC Plc, with a 30% stake, Thorn EMI, with 25%, and US West Inc, with […]
West Germany’s telecommunications operator Deutsche Bundespost Telekom, is to take the remaining 15% stake in the Unitel consortium that is bidding for a licence to set up a Personal Communications Network service in the UK – Unitel, which also comprises STC Plc, with a 30% stake, Thorn EMI, with 25%, and US West Inc, with 30%, is one of eight consortia that will hear from the Department of Trade & Industry early next year if they have been awarded a licence to establish what is projected to be a mobile telecommunications service aimed at a mass market, with low-cost, genuinely portable handsets operating through a digital network. Telecommunications company STC, whose chairman Arthur Walsh has also been appointed chairman of Unitel for this year, stated that the inclusion of a continental organisation in the consortium, particularly the Bundespost, which carries a certain amount of weight with European standards committees, will be vital in establishing the Personal Communications Network in the UK and the rest of Europe – although with the present lack of advancement in the German telecommunications sector, it seems unlikely that Deutsche Bundespost will be looking at setting up a similar initiative in West Germany for at least another five years. Unitel is committed to creating a fast uptake for the network in the UK, and yesterday went into detail about the costing of the service, probably the most important consideration in the future competition with existing forms of mobile communication. Andrew Sukawaty, the chief operating officer for Unitel, said that the projected price of a handset will be around UKP200 by 1993-4, with this falling considerably as economies of scale set in fairly early on. Tariffs will be based on a three-tier system, with 61 areas being designated home-zone, subscription-zone and non-subscription-zone according to user requirements. For example, a user may need to make and receive calls only within a specific area: in this case he designates this his home-zone area – perhaps based around his central office – and pays a monthly subscription charge put at UKP5.50, with calls charged at 5 pence a minute in peak time, and 2 pence off-peak. If a regional office is situated in one of the other 60 zones, he may subscribe to this zone at an additional UKP4 a month, and pay 24 pence at peak, 9 pence off-peak. For one-off calls to other areas where subscription would not be merited, he would be charged at a non-subscription rate comparable to existing cellular rates – the system will be designed to the Groupe Speciale Mobile pan-European digital cellular standard. Unitel argues that the Telepoint service will have a different market to the Personal Communications Network service, largely because Telepoint only allows the user to make calls, and envisages that by the turn of the century the Personal Communications Network, which will require an expected investment of UKP900m and be installed by 1992, will have 10m to 14m UK users in a market worth UKP5,000m. Based on that belief, Unitel also announced its intention to make UKP24m available from 1990 for research and development of the technology involved, the establishment of standards, and research into component manufacturing and potential value-added services – but now, for Unitel and the other seven bidders, it is just a matter of waiting for the Department of Trade & Industry to make up its mind.