3 X-Series Got it Right, Sort Of

When the carrier 3 announced its X-Series efforts in the U.K. earlier this month, wireless enthusiasts saw it as a sign that the walled garden was finally coming down — though, the decision likely had as much to do with the company’s financial issues as any kind of revolution.

Today 3 announced the pricing of their X-Series service with two choices, 5 pounds ($10) or 10 pounds ($20) per month. While the company seems to have mostly stayed true to their low, flat fee, Internet-inspired intentions, they also added “fair use” guidelines — like a tiger, a carrier can’t really change its stripes.

The X-Series fair use guidelines:

  • – 5,000 Skype to Skype minutes per month.
  • – Windows Live Messenger: 10,000 messages per month
  • – 1GB per month for browsing
  • – Orb and Slingbox: 80 hours a month with X-Series Gold

3 says “where unfair use is apparent, 3 will take the appropriate measures on a case-by-case basis.” It seems like carriers still feel that truly unlimited is just not in their best business interests.

Beyond the fair use reminder, 3’s flat fee pricing is actually pretty compelling. The two packages are X-Series Silver at 5 pounds per month ($10) and X-Series Gold at 10 pounds ($20) per month (that’s not including the extra fees for voice and texting services.)

For X-Series Silver you get “unlimited” (within fair use) mobile web browsing/searching, “unlimited” Skype calls with Skype PC users and Skype 3 mobile customers, and “unlimited” instant messages, to or from Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger, to another X-Series cell phone, or a PC. (Update: The Skype service is based on the iSkoot solution.)

For X-Series Gold you get everything that silver gets, except you also get “unlimited” access to your TV with Slingbox and your PC with Orb. Currently both X-Series are only available on two handsets, the Nokia N73 and the Sony Ericsson W950i.

3’s X-Series services will be an interesting experiment to see if consumers will pay these somewhat reasonable fees for a more ideal mobile broadband experience. Other carriers could follow 3’s lead, or the low pricing and flat fee could just add to 3’s financial quandry.