German mobile phone operator Vodafone D2, the first in Europe to launch a mobile data service based on 3G technology, will sell mobile data cards as fast as manufacturers can supply them, said chief executive officer Jürgen von Kuczkowski at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover.
"Demand for the high-speed service is very strong," he said. "Our sales so far give me every reason to believe that 3G will be an overwhelming success, despite some early network tethering problems and the lack of small, reliable handsets with a long battery life."
Rival operators around Europe are closely watching operators in Germany - the continent's largest mobile phone market - as they role out 3G services based on WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology.
Their latest services and fees could serve as benchmarks for the industry.
Kuczkowski said he would not introduce 3G phones until they met all quality features of present second-generation GSM phones.
However, Kuczkowski said he expected suppliers to deliver sufficient 3G handsets with the required quality before the Christmas shopping season.
"I'm confident we'll meet this deadline," he said, adding that the operator expected to launch between one and two 3G phones over the next couple of months.
Looking ahead, Vodafone customers can expect to see more handsets from Asia suppliers, he said.
"Mobile devices from Asian suppliers are becoming increasingly attractive," he said. "Our traditional suppliers in Europe are no longer as dominant as they once were."
Vodafone will continue to work closely with suppliers in developing branded services, such as the operator's Live! mobile internet service. This co-operation will extend to 3G services.
Vodafone has decided to offer customers a flat fee for its Live! service, Kuczkowski said.
The operator is also testing push-to-talk technology, similar to the walkie-talkie service pioneered by Nextel Communications in the US, said chief operating officer Friedrich Joussen.
"We're studying the technology but can't say just yet whether or not we will ever deploy it," he said.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service