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Smart introduces 3G free trial service in key cities
Philippine operator SMART Communications announced on Tuesday that its third-generation (3G) mobile service will be available for free to subscribers in key cities nationwide.

Hoping to educate the market about the faster mobile network service, Ramon Isberto, Smart head for public affairs, said, the free service will go on until the operator believes the market is ready to begin paying for 3G services. He did not disclose the new pricing structure for 3G services.

Menardo Jimenez Jr., head of Smart's wireless consumer division, described Smart's recent move a "knockout punch" against rival Globe Telecom who was first to conduct a 3G trial in the country.

"Everybody will just follow us now," Jimenez claimed during a briefing, where the local operator demonstrated a video call made by one of its executives from Barcelona to Manila.

Smart said that the launch of its 3G came less than a month after it signed a supply deal with Nokia.

Jimenez said the operator expects the rollout of the 3G service to be done within the year, adding that the commercial service will be available this year.

Isberto said that Smart has a "3G presence" in Metro Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Kalibo in Aklan, Baguio City, and Davao. Smart expects to rollout 3G in other areas quickly this year, he added.

Apart from allowing subscribers to make video calls, content is a strong driver for 3G services, according to Jimenez. He said that the operator is talking with various content providers, and hinted that Smart's partnership with NTT DoCoMo indicated what kind of content the local operator will offer to subscribers.

For now, Isberto believes that believes video calls will be the potential killer application for 3G in the Philippines.

During the launch, Smart demonstrated a video call made by Rolando Pena, Smart network services division, who was calling from Barcelona, Spain to Manila.

3G allows subscribers to access a high speed wireless network and make use of applications such as video calling, video streaming, and high speed Internet browsing.

Smart was among those granted a license to operate 3G in the Philippines.

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