On Friday, Nokia and Italian mobile operator Vodafone Omnitel successfully performed a voice call hand-over between a third-generation network, based on WCDMA (Wideband Code Divisional Multiplex Access) technology, and a voice-centric GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network.
"The seamless interworking of WCDMA technology with a commercial GSM network confirms that WCDMA networks are becoming ready for large-scale launches," said Nokia spokeswoman Tuula Putkinen.
In September, Ericsson demonstrated call hand-over between a test 3G network set up by the vendor in Sweden using frequencies allocated to local operator HI3G Access and the commercial GSM network of Telia Mobile.
Call hand-over between 3G and GSM networks is crucial, especially in the early phase of 3G network deployment because coverage will be limited initially to metropolitan areas. Customers with dual-mode, 3G-GSM phones who travel outside of 3G cells will be able to make and receive calls on GSM networks without interruption.
Most European operators are still in the early stages of building their 3G networks. Finland's Sonera has delayed the launch of its commercial 3G service until next year, and Mobilkom Austria, which is in an experimental 3G launch phase, does not yet provide call hand-over.
"Call hand-over has been demonstrated in the lab and now in tests involving the operators, but it hasn't really been tested in the field with heavy traffic loads," said Bena Roberts, wireless analyst with Current Analysis. "We won't know if this service really works until the 3G networks go live and generate traffic. I have my doubts."