CEBIT: 3G handsets by 'year's end'

A number of mobile handset manufacturers have claimed they will have third-generation handsets ready for the European market by...

A number of mobile handset manufacturers have claimed they will have third-generation handsets ready for the European market by the end of this year.

Even though the term 3G has not generated the same level of excitement at CEBIT as it did last year, manufacturers have not been put off.

Early in the show, Nokia announced a September 26 launch date for its first mass-market, 3G mobile-phone service and handsets. It stressed that when commercial 3G services and handsets from Nokia and its partners hit the market, it would not be a "techno launch" but a true mass-market launch

Motorola's announcement was rather more cautious. Mike Zafirovski, president of Motorola's personal communication sector, said Motorola was "confident" of releasing a 3G, dual-mode handset by the end of this year, but would not give a specific date, adding that he was not expecting the 3G market to start taking off until next year.

The first Motorola 3G handset to launch in the U.K., Germany and Italy should be the 2820 model, he said.

Motorola is partnering with Hutchison and two German operators that Zafirovski said he was unable to name at this stage. "Handsets will be available in the third quarter with Hutchison and we expect to have 300,000 to 400,000 3G units out with Hutchison by the year's end," he added.

Siemens spokesman Michael Leyer said the company expects its to unveil its first 3G handsets for the European market by the autumn and winter.

Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson is aiming for some sort of 3G product launch in Europe by the end of the year, though like Motorola, the company is setting its sights on a wider product launch in 2003.

However, Samsung spokeswoman Denise Clark said: "We plan to have a product for trial at the end of this year, or the beginning of next year. We want to have good talks with operators in order to make phones that can support the services they intend to offer."

Mobile operating system vendor Symbian declined to comment on whether the first round of 3G handsets to hit the market in Europe would carry its OS.

"It's really difficult to predict how many vendors will launch 3G with a proprietary OS, but some of the vendors that do that will then move over to Symbian. For example, Nokia is using its own OS now, but we are working to replace Nokia OS with Symbian OS and Nokia has said that it will work with us to do so," said Paul Cockerton, Symbian's spokesman.

Cockerton said it is standard practice for companies to introduce early products to market and to follow up with improved versions later.

"While 3G has certainly come a lot farther than last year, the vendors and mobile-phone operators are much more focused on getting GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or 2.5G handsets out there and making sure that killer applications for the new technologies like MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) receive widespread acceptability," he said.

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