An aggressive marketing effort for Hutchison Whampoa's third-generation (3G) mobile service in Britain over the weekend was likely to attract a critical mass of subscribers but could also hugely widen its losses, according to analysts. In another move to boost the subscriber base of its new '3' service in Britain, Hutchison-appointed handset dealer Carphone Warehouse Group has been giving away 3G handsets since Friday. The 'zero handset' offer is the second key promotional effort by Hutchison this month, as it attempts to build up a meaningful customer base for its US$16.7 billion network investment. Two weeks ago, it cut 30 per cent off its tariff plan. Analysts said Hutchison, whose service launch got off to a slow start after securing only 25,000 users in April and last month, could finally begin to lure customers away from its British rivals. 'This could be the first positive news for Hutchison, in the sense that it should report better subscriber numbers,' said ING analyst Cusson Leung. But Mr Leung cautioned that Hutchison's aggressive marketing efforts could also 'worsen its profitability profile'. As a result of the change in strategy, Mr Leung projected a 1.2 billion euro (HK$10.86 billion) operating loss in Hutchison's 3G business in Britain this year - 300 million euros more than his initial forecast. The additional loss would be equivalent to about 20 per cent of Hutchison's total projected annual earnings. Mr Leung added that Hutchison's low price and high handset subsidy should attract 2G subscribers from incumbents who will not launch their 3G services for another six to nine months. So far none of the four British mobile operators - Vodafone, Orange, mmO2 and T Mobile - have responded to Hutchison's initiative. Hutchison had previously denied that it would offer handset subsidies to attract users, saying that it wanted to be perceived as a premium service. The abrupt change in Hutchison's strategy signals a desperate move to stimulate customer demand, which had been hampered by high handset prices, short battery life and calls going astray. Hutchison hopes to attract one million subscribers in Britain by the end of the year - a target that many analysts think will be very difficult to reach.