European users may not be ready for 3G

Potential customers still need convincing that 3G can offer them a better data access service than what they can already get...

Potential customers still need convincing that 3G can offer them a better data access service than what they can already get using existing widespread GPRS networks, according to a survey by research company Analysys.

Analysys said that operators looking to roll out successful 3G networks would have to pay careful attention to marketing, pricing, and availability of handsets. Furthermore, the company warned that operators might find it better to mainly focus on GPRS services for the rest of 2004, and even 2005, before making the giant leap to 3G, which involves building an entirely different infrastructure.

Of all the reasons behind this gloomy analysis, one clear problem is the fact that operators still have not mastered the technology to allow users to roam seamlessly between all GPRS networks and 3G ones, when a 3G signal is not strong enough in areas of the country with no or poor 3G coverage.

Vodafone for instance, is only offering 3G data cards, which slot into laptops for connecting to the internet in a limited number of urban areas as part of its first UK 3G launch.

Orange also admits it has only built 40% of its UK 3G network so far, and there will not be a commercial launch until the end of the year.

Analyst Butler Group predicted 3G take-up in Europe will only reach 25% of users by 2008, with GPRS still being the main player at the end of the decade.

This article was part of Computer Weekly's enterprise mobile business channel, sponsored by Nokia

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