Speaking at the UMTS Deployment Congress in Amsterdam last week, the phone operators said they thought existing 3G handsets were unfit for sale to customers and that none of them could adequately perform all the functions they were intended for.
Some complained of buggy handset software, while others said no handset could deliver all the features promised by 3G, such as high-speed internet access, clear voice services, video telephony and smooth handover between mobile cells.
Hakan Dahlstrom, head of mobile networks for Sweden at TeliaSonera, said, "Some handsets are good at handovers, like Motorola. Others are good at internet packet data switching, but at the moment no single handset is good at everything."
The new Nokia 6650, in particular, came under fire. "We had 10 Nokia 6650s, but they had to be sent back for software upgrades," said Rudi Westerveld, assistant professor at the Technical University of Delft, who is conducting application tests with T-Mobile in the Netherlands.
Michael Thelander, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, said, "I would be surprised if we see the Nokia 6650 in the shops."
A spokesman for Nokia in the UK said, "It is completely normal for phones to be returned to us for upgrades in the development stage."
Analyst Jeremy Green of Ovum said, "3G is not ready. It is more complicated than previous networking technologies and no one really knows what a 3G phone needs to do. There is no killer app that can be met with 3G that cannot be done with existing technologies."
3G services are currently being offered by Hutchison Whampoa's 3 and Telekom Austria in the UK, Italy and Austria.