T-Mobile to launch 3G ahead of rivals

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T-Mobile is set to become the next mobile operator to launch third-generation services in the UK, with plans to sell high-speed internet phones in time for Christmas.

This will see the Deutsche Telekom-owned company trumping its larger UK rivals - Vodafone, Orange and O2 - which have delayed their 3G rollouts until next March at the earliest.

T-Mobile, which paid £4bn for its 3G licence, is the second operator to enter the market. Hutchison 3G launched its "3" service earlier this year but has been forced to offer significant handset discounts to attract customers and meet targets.

T-Mobile refused to comment, but a well-placed source revealed that it will launch a 3G trial involving hundreds of existing customers in the London area in October.

However, along with the three other mobile operators yet to enter the market, T-Mobile is struggling to build the masts to support 3G services. The original masts were erected in the mid-1990s, but many of the sites' leases are due for renewal. One industry source said some councils, which are facing local opposition to new mast development, were using the renewal process to raise objections.

Nigel Dayton, research director at Gartner Europe, said: "The first-mover advantage is no guarantee of success. Vodafone was slow to move from analogue to digital, but it didn't stop it being successful."