#6: Biggest Stories of 2006: 3’s X-series

In November, 3, the global mobile operator, announced what was perceived to be a radical new approach to mobile services. They called it the “X-series,” which of course got everyone wondering what an X-series really is.

As I noted at the time, “Well, it’s a new pricing plan for broadband mobile. It’s new ‘cutting edge’ handsets. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a bundle of disruptive applications.”

This was all new for 3 and got lots and lots of attention.

When the pricing was finally announced, there basically were two tiers of service. For an incremental 5GBP on top of the subscriber’s cellphone plan, the customer would get unlimited (sort of) broadband wireless Internet access, including easy access to “disruptive” applications such as Skype, Google search, and Yahoo messaging. For another 5GB, she’d also get access to “disruptive” applications (Slingbox or Orb) to watch her television across the network.

Wow! Cool stuff. Big news! Even now, a month later, there are still 394 news items listed at Google News for the x-series.

But, what here is new?

Cool new handsets come out all the time. Will 3 be able to always pick the newest and coolest? (They’ve already struggled to get more than one handset out the door…)

Carriers already offer unlimited broadband wireless Internet access in the 5-10GBP range.

And carriers are always juggling the applications that are easy for their subscribers to get to, including “disruptors” like Yahoo, Microsoft Live, YouTube, and Loopt.

So, is 3’s X-Series real news? Undoubtedly so for 3’s existing customers who apparently haven’t had the benefit of all these capabilities up until now.

But none of this is as revolutionary as some of the capabilities that are starting to appear that really leverages the context of the mobile user in ways that have been impossible in the pre-mobile Internet era. What 3’s X-series represents is “just” the Internet taken mobile. What context-relevance represents is the full mobility revolution.

This is the last of the “big news” but “no news” stories of the year. The next five will be “big news” and “real news” stories. Stay tuned!

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