3, the 3G network in Australia, has been ready since last month but the 3G handsets will only become available today through 20 company-owned stores opening in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The company is expected to offer video news and sport updates, mapping services and video conferencing as the first attractions of its $3 billion gamble in Australia.
Competition Optus is offering video-based services, picture messaging and music downloads on its (2.5G) GPRS network, which offers speeds of 40Kbps to 80Kbps, compared with 3G speeds starting at 128Kbps. Vodafone is expected to follow next Tuesday with picture messaging, new games and real-time information services, also on a GPRS network, as part of its heavily promoted Vodafone Live! launch.
Telstra is also upgrading its CDMA network - to CDMA 1xrtt - offering near 3G speeds for its new consumer mobile service Mobile Loop, which was announced last month. The head of Telstra's consumer division, Ted Pretty, claimed it was technically 3G. "If it can burst up to 144Kbps it can be classified as 3G," he said.
Hutchison said its applications and content are compelling and rivals' applications don't compare to its "full suite of true 3G services".
Handsets available include the NEC e606, NEC e808N and the Motorola A830.