BT 3G services delayed until 2003

BT's newly spun-off wireless division, MMO2, has acknowledged that its European networks using third-generation (3G) mobile...

BT's newly spun-off wireless division, MMO2, has acknowledged that its European networks using third-generation (3G) mobile telecoms technology face further delays of six months.

The news comes on the same day that MMO2 launched its first 3G service in the Isle of Man through its wholly owned subsidiary, Manx Telecom. The launch had originally been scheduled for 31 May.

The company's 3G commercial services will now be rolled out in early 2003. MMO2 blamed the delay on the shortage of handsets that could use both the new and old technologies.

"There are three legs to our roll-out of 3G, the first being the network in the Isle of Man," said an MMO2 representative.

"We are now handing out handsets to customers and will be getting feedback from them. This first leg is about a year ahead of the plan to bring 3G to a mass market, and in between that we have Expidas, which is a programme to draw content developers to the project," the representative added.

When the delay in the 3G network on the Isle of Man was first announced, BT said that a software fault in handsets from NEC had caused a delay of at least three months. The telco blamed a bug in the integrated software that caused the NEC handsets to crash when a mobile phone user moved between base stations.

Over six months later, the bug has been fixed and the Isle of Man 3G network now covers about 85% of the island. The network uses 24 transmitters and allows up to 200 customers to use the service.

MMO2 built the Isle of Man 3G network in partnership with NEC and German electronics and engineering giant Siemens, but the company has not decided whether to continue the partnership as it develops the 3G network on a wider basis.

"We chose NEC for its experience in Japan and with NTT DoCoMo and I-mode," said an MMO2 spokesman. "As far as the rest of the territories, we are in discussions with a number of network and handset developers including Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson."

For its large-scale 3G networks, MMO2 and BT have signed agreements to share infrastructure costs with Deutsche Telekom and KPN. BT and MMO2 will work with the companies to offer commercial 3G services in Germany and the Netherlands respectively.

The company predicts that 3G services will add 10% to its revenue in the first year of the launch and 10% to 15% after that.

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