European 3G market gets a boost from Vodafone

Vodafone operators in Europe will begin offering several new 3G mobile phones to customers by the end of the year

Vodafone operators in Europe will begin offering several new 3G mobile phones to customers by the end of the year

Many of the new phones come with relatively advanced features, and they will probably be sold at a premium to non-3G phones. The lineup includes Europe's first 3G 2-megapixel camera phone.

To date, Vodafone has offered two 3G models in Europe, one from Samsung and the other from Sony Ericsson. Many of the new phones will be exclusive to Vodafone and the first could be out as soon as November, said Kazuyuki Mori, manager of Vodafone's terminal management department.

Most of the phones are WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM capable and use the Wap (Wireless Application Protocol) 2.0 MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) platform. And most can handle a 300Kbyte mail attachments and 2Mbyte file downloads, the company said.

Two of the phones are from Sharp. Its 902 model features a 2.02-megapixel CCD (charge-coupled device) mobile camera with 2x optical zoom, making it the first 2-megapixel 3G phone for the European market.

It has a swivel style design that allows users to reverse its 2.4in, 240 pixels by 320 pixels LCD screen 180°, as well as USB (Universal Serial Bus) connectivity, the phone has Bluetooth short-range wireless networking technology connectivity, is capable of video telephony and runs Macromedia Flash. For removable flash memory, the phone has an SD memory card slot.

The Sharp 802 has a 1.3-megapixel CCD camera and a 2.2in, 240 pixels by 320 pixels LCD main screen, and a 110,000-pixel CMOS sub camera. It has the same dimensions and similar features as the 902, but weighs slightly less at 141g.

The Sony Ericsson V800 has a 1.3-megapixel CMOS camera and a 2.2in main screen, but with a lower resolution of 176 pixels by 220 pixels. The V800 comes with a Memory Stick Duo slot and weighs 128g. It also supports USB and Bluetooth connectivity and Macromedia flash, and does video telephony.

Motorola's phones offer less sophisticated features. The V980 is a palm-shaped model that has a 310,000-pixel CMOS main camera and a 100,000-pixel CMOS sub camera, a 1.9in LCD screen with 176 pixels by 220 pixels resolution. A 1in sub display has 80 pixels by 96 pixels resolution.

The V980 weighs 140g and has a continuous talk time of 130 minutes. It has a TransFlash memory card slot, a new type of removable memory developed earlier this year by SanDisk. The V980 is capable of video telephony and has USB connectivity but lacks Bluetooth. The C980 candy bar-shaped model has similar features, but lacks a sub screen.

Details of another phone, Samsung's  Z 110V, were not released by Vodafone.

Different Vodafone operators will offer different lineups, meaning that not all of the phones will be available in every European country, said Matthew Nicholson, a company spokesman.

Vodafone is introducing several common functions across its new lineup, Mori said. First, Vodafone is looking to standardise menus to make it easier for buyers to handle new phones, he said.

Bluetooth will become more available with more 3G phones as the company adds new models next year. Four of the models announced in Tokyo are Bluetooth-enabled and more will follow, according to Akihiro Sakata, assistant manager of Vodafone's terminal management department.

"We want to add headset options and increase PC connectivity. ... Today is not the end," Sakata said.

Vodafone declined to reveal how many of the phones it ordered, its sales targets and the models' prices. However, extra development costs incurred by the makers will be transferred to the customer, Sakata suggested, as the phones will sell at a premium to the company's 2G models. Prices should decrease as more models are sold, he said.

Vodafone launched its first 3G handset in Europe, the Samsung Z105, in May. The company declined to reveal its 3G subscriber numbers.

Paul Kallender writes for IDG News Service

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