Superfast mobile phone networks are likely to be delayed because of economic uncertainty.
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Mobile phone network operators do not see any urgency to move to 4G and plan to ride out the economic downturn by getting the most from their 3G investments.
But telecoms equipment makers keen to boost flagging 3G sales are already conducting trials using fledgling 4G networks and handsets.
Adoption of 4G technology is expected to be spurred by trial results showing download speeds of at least 50Mbps, outstripping fixed line speeds and competing with rival Wimax technology.
An ABI Research report published mid-2008 predicted that the growing use of mobile broadband services by handsets, laptops and other mobile devices will place ever-increasing demands on 3G networks that can be addressed only by 4G networks.
The first UK trials are taking place in Swindon, where handset maker Motorola has invited mobile operators to conduct their own tests on its 4G network.
In the 4G Motorola tests, voice calls and high-speed data services were streamed over 2.6GHz networks.
If 4G networks are delayed, telecoms equipment makers will be forced to sell 3G technology to emerging markets such as China before they can tap into 4G sales in Europe.