3 JOINS MOBILE CUSTOMER SCRAMBLE - In the wake of yesterday's news that Eircom is rejoining the mobile phone services provider fold through its acquisition of Meteor, there is news this morning of new competition for Vodafone and O2 in the mobile market.

Vodafone and O2 are labelled jointly dominant in Ireland by the communications regulator - a label hotly disputed by the pair.

3 Ireland, owned by Hutchison Whampoa, launches its third generation mobile phone service from this afternoon on the internet and in the shops tomorrow morning. Customers unable to access the 3G service because of network limitations will default to a 2G service.

3's commercial director for Ireland, Stephen Pilkington, claims 3 is the only pure 3G network operator in the market. He says 3 has 99.5% coverage for voice, text and GPRS service, plus 60% coverage for 3G, mainly in the cities.

Mr Pilkington says one of the differences is that 3 offer unlimited access to all content at no extra cost. He would not reveal pricing details, but says one of its offerings will be €25 a month for 200 anytime any network minutes. He claims this 'beats the socks off' anything in the market at the moment. 

Mr Pilkington says 3 has 6.5 million customers in the UK and Italy and is very optimistic about Ireland. He says building an infrastructure has been 'reasonable', as the company has benefited its experience in other countries.


MARKETS - The Nikkei index of Japanese shares closed down 25 at 11,738. The euro is worth $1.205 and 69p sterling.