3 UK plans to have a 'shit hot' 3G network with nearly 13,000 masts and 98% outdoor coverage by October, CEO Kevin Russell said in a morning briefing today.
While 3 currently covers about 92% of the UK with around 10,000 masts, and 1,000 in London within the M25, the operator plans to increase its coverage outside the big smoke, with a total of 12,855 sites planned, affording 98% coverage, with every mast supporting 7.6Mbps HSDPA internet.
Last year, Orange claimed the UK's greatest 3G coverage at 93%, but Russell said that 3's figures represented 'real data with 500kbps data speed at the edge [of each mast's coverage]'.
'We want 3.5 to four million handset users by the end of 2010," he said. 3 is currently the smallest of the UK's major carriers, but it holds 37% of the mobile broadband market with 1.4 million customers using its dongles.
'The perception in the marketplace today is that 3 has a weak network - and it was deserved - our early handsets didn't work very well,' Russell said. 'How to change this legacy perception? Have a good network.'
Russell also said that 3 would invest more in Android handsets this year. 'I think Android is important,' he said. 'We've launched Spotify [on Android handset HTC Hero] softly, but you'll see more from us, with a bigger push in the next couple months as more Spotify-enabled handsets become available.'
While he didn't rule out the possibility of focusing on high-end flagship handsets such as the Apple iPhone or Palm Pre, he also said that 3 had always approached smartphones differently, preferring to appeal to the mass market with deals like £15 contracts, or entry-level devices like INQ's Chat 3G.