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IT professionals with strong XML skills, combined with an understanding of mobile devices and network technology, are likely to be in greatest demand, said IBM.
Mobile phone companies have already begun recruiting staff with 3G skills from overseas to head off a skills shortage in the UK, according to recruitment firms.
Travel, retail and finance companies looking to provide services on 3G could be particularly badly hit, said IBM, though others could also suffer.
Mark Frank, e-business principal at IBM, said, "If full 3G does not take off, we will have problems with the transfer of data for GPRS and 2.5G. It is apparent that transcoding data is going to be a key requirement."
"We are looking for people with good e-business skills," added Frank. "We do not require specific mobile or wireless skills. XML is highly desirable and many of them would require Java."
IBM has begun training its own staff in 3G skills, in partnership with one of the mobile phone companies.
Overseas recruitment to plug a gap in 3G skills has concentrated on India and South Africa so far, according to recruitment firms.
"Recruitment from India and South Africa has been quite prominent for firms like Hutchison and Orange," said Simon Grant of recruitment specialist Kramer Westfield.
However, some recruitment consultants believe it could be at least two years before 3G takes off, delaying any clamour for skilled staff.
Erik Nordling, vice-president, marketing and strategy for Ericsson, said the skills shortage for 3G would vary by country but Ericsson was confident it could get the necessary IT staff.