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Vodafone makes 3G work!

So there's at least two phones in existence

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Vodafone was very excited this morning when it put out a press release saying it had made the UK's first voice call over a 3G mobile network - a year before the launch of the service.

Isn't that great? The first call made over the 3G infrastructure in West London.

Well, no, it isn't. What's so great about making a mobile phone call? We've been able to do it for at least 10 years. But this is over the 3G network, you say. So what? Why is 3G going to be so wonderful? Yes, because apparently we'll get video and music over it. Vodafone has said nothing about this - you'd think it would have if it had got it working.

The call took place over the operator's initial 30 base stations in the Thames Valley. Incredible. So what have we learnt? That if you only want a 3G phone for voice calls and have 30 base stations to yourself then you have spent your money wisely.

And why wasn't the press invited to this revolutionary achievement?

The fact is that 3G's future looks very shaky. A huge number of new masts are needed to get the service running. This costs a lot of money - on top of the ludicrous sums paid for a licence to even run the service in the first place. Then there is the growing opposition to phone masts - people don't want them anywhere near their homes. And then there's the large delay in putting masts up thanks the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

If a company whose future relies on 3G has just managed to get voice calls working, will it really be able to put thousands of customers on a data-based service by the middle of next year? The very fact that this is deemed newsworthy just goes to show that 3G is going to be a very rocky road for both operators and consumers. ®

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