Mobile phone operator O2 has gone the same route as Vodafone and Orange by launching a 3G datacard to its customers today.

The card will actually be part of a larger service offering Wi-fi and GPRS connection as well. Teaming up with Wi-Fi network providers The Cloud and Excilan the 3G service will initially be offered in 20 cities and 6,000 hotspots by Christmas around the country.

The choice of 3G coverage areas, including London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, is based on locations with the highest GPRS usage, O2 said.

The company has promised to cover 50 per cent of the UK with 3G by June 2005, and says it is on course to provide 80 per cent coverage by the end of 2007.

GPRS/3G customers can access the services with a card costing £110. O2 offers a variety of payment packages, with less expensive options for voice contract services. Wi-Fi costs £30 per month flat rate for unlimited access.

O2 is the latest player into the market, however with Vodafone promising 3G voice calls in December and Orange due for early next year, its got a lot of catching up to do.